Book Reviews

Review: The Accessory Handbook by Alison Freer


Let me start off with a few disclaimers that I’m sure my 20-something daughter will vouch for:

  1. I am not stylish.
  2. I am among those librarians, the dionsaurs of the field, who do NOT own either a cardigan or cats-eye glasses.
  3. I do not do “cute” except for cat t-shirts and Snoopy t-shirts  for at-home wear only.
  4. My most frequent accessory is cat hair. Since we have three cats, I have hair for every color pallate.
  5. I haven’t purchased a complete outfit, with accessories, shoes and all, since 2003.

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” (Steel Magnolias)

Now for the great news: Alison Freer can fix all of this! In her first book, How To Get Dressed, which I reviewed here, she explained how to pick clothes that are right for you. And, even better, she told you how in a fun way. This gal has both style and panache. She also uses words that non-fashionistas can understand.

This time around she’s addressing how to finish the look–that is how to accessorize yourself. From scarves to hats to purses to shoes to jewelry and beyond– it’s all in this wonderful little book with lots of great illustrations. But wait! There’s more! You also get instructions on how to clean, store and even repair the items! There’s help with colors,  with textures, with…..well EVERYTHING to do with accessories of all kind.

Take beanies. Now, I don’t know about you, but beanies really don’t hit my fashion radar. But, should I see one suddenly that I love…..she’s got me covered! “How to wear a beanie like a cool girl” is right there on page 108. Read it and rock it!

THE #1 Tip For Me

Photos: purse/gretnagreen, pad/Target

Page 131 will probably help my blood pressure for the rest of my life! Truth. I always thought my purse strap wouldn’t stay on my shoulder because I have narrow shoulders. NO! It’s because the folks who make purses don’t CARE if they stay there! Well, well, well. Never fear, Alison is here! And her tip is cheap and practical–a hunk of clear, self-adhesive no-slip shoe insert! Blew. Me. Away. As soon as the budget allows, I will be purchasing some of these! I’ll buy multiples because she knows her stuff so I know it will work.

See? Practical information ANY woman can use! But best of all? Her favorite shoes are….wait for it…yes…yes….yes… Velvet Smoking Slippers! Soul Mate! Don’t believe me? See page 155–read it and weep rejoice!

A Suggestion For Alison

Now if she’d only write a book titled Dressing and Accessorizing the plus-sized, middle-aged woman with no neck, not much budget and nowhere to wear it all. THAT would be a best seller! She’d get her own Monthly Clothing Box deal She’d have fans and groupies! She’d be the India Hicks, the Dominio Magazine, of middle-aged cool. Sigh. She’s got a damned sweet gig now as a costume designer in Hollywood. Isn’t that always the way?

The Accessory Handbook by Alison Freer


Book Reviews

Say no to “boyfriend” style

Chances are good that if you’ve gone clothes shopping lately  you’ve been smacked in the face with one of the most sexist advertising gimmicks in years: Boyfriend Style.  Admittedly, if you are a 6th grader in the first blush of hormonal rush, then you may be excited by this branding. Those of us over 13, however, should find it appalling.

Left to right: Coldwater Creek,  Hollister and Urban Outfiters. Click for source.

The message this style name carries is obvious: Without a man, you  are nothing. Now, for the Junior High and High School set, ok. Everyone believes they’re the first to fall into lust and the first to ever have sex in the history of the world. We’ll skip them. After all, who hasn’t loved (at that age) wearing HIS letter jacket or his his favorite hoodie of his basketball jersey or even his band sweater or whatever. I can live with the dark, overly scented Mall style-stores being all about this. But, hello? Coldwater Creek? Talbots? And just about every major clothing retailer??


Here’s the test to determine if it  is sexist. Imagine, if you will, (and oh! I wish I could do Photoshop!) say, Abercrombie, showing a buff young God of a boy wearing…wait for it…GIRLFRIEND Jeans!! Yes! They’d have such great embroidery on the pockets and they’d cut off at the ankle! Or, GIRLFRIEND Camisoles! Yeah! Imagine some man going into some nice men’s shop and instead of grabbing a package of 3 super-thick cotton crew-necked undershirts, he instead chose a light pink, a sassy chartreuse and an all-purpose white camisole to wear!! Right.

Yet, every day that a woman wants something a little looser and a little more comfy, she is  must put up with it being called  “Boyfriend jeans” or t-shirt or whatever. Because we all borrow men’s pants right? NO! Because we should want to “get into” men’s pants. SIZZLE!



Now, I don’t know about you, but at 54 (and even back at 24 when I still liked wearing a boyfriend’s jacket) I find this so insulting, so juvenile that I am refusing to buy any of it. I’ve always loved tailored clothing and darker colors. Today that means many of the things I would enjoy wearing (and that are made to fit a woman’s body) are tagged with this ridiculous name. Cause, we all want to wear his big, soft shirt open showing our cool tube top/bra/whatever that is. Give me a break!




This whole idea is the icon for everything that’s wrong with popular culture today.  Here’s the best example: Underwear.


source for left photo        source for right photo

Here’s the thing. I don’t see any retailer, aside from adult lingerie stores, selling something called “manties” let alone “Girlfriend panties” for men to wear. Yeah. Get that image stuck in your brain.  Yet a young, painfully thin girl, sporting a duck face or sticking out her tongue while pulling down the front of those same briefs just a bit, is called S–Y So, what is being sold here: Girls as you-know-what objects. I have no objection to selling really comfortable underwear–this style used to be sold, if I can remember back that far into ancient history as “banded legs” (albeit with no faux fly).  But why on Earth women need a fly (even fake) on the front is beyond me. It’s tacky. It’s sexist. It’s that whole “Women only want to get into a guy’s pants” notion again.

Retailers? Grow Up. Leave Junior High behind. Stop the sexualizing of everything. Do you really want to see a little girl wearing a miniature version of men’s briefs? Do you really think it’s so cute to see your wife wearing boxer briefs? Ladies? Do we really want to be told that to be comfortable we must be wearing stuff supposedly looking like we picked it up off our current hook-up’s bedroom floor?

I date MEN, not boys–I suspect most people out of high school do the same. If a man loans me his jacket because I’m freezing, I say thank you–I don’t declare it a fashion statement. Ladies, if you love your guy’s hoodie or pajama shirt or…(please tell me you don’t really wear his undershorts, ok? Cause ewwwwww)… just do it. But don’t tell me to buy it. So until I see GIRLFRIEND styles in the men’s section of, say, Kohls or Jos A Banks or wherever, I’m boycotting Boyfriend Style.

Last words: Even my drop-dead gorgeous, size 0 20-year old former cheerleader daughter finds this (and I quote) “Stupid.” Enough said.