Bettina Zilkha, marketing expert, writer and international contributing editor for TheTrendReport.com, discussed the recently-released "Ultimate Style," and her upcoming Litchfield County appearance to promote the book, during a telephone conversation from her home in The Hamptons last week.
The author is scheduled to visit The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot July 24, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., to sign copies of her new book. "We're very excited about the event," said Fran Keilty, owner of the bookshop where "Ultimate Style" is proving to be very popular with customers.
Books on fashion, in general, are good sellers at The Hickory Stick, said Ms. Keilty. However, she noted in this case that "Ultimate Style" is an especially lovely book.
"I've browsed it, and I think it's unusual," she elaborated. Some customers have even purchased "Ultimate Style" as a housewarming gift because of its cover.
But even the book's fashionable author admits that looks aren't everything. "I want people to know that it's not just a coffee table book," said Ms. Zilkha. "It's so much more."
And indeed it is.
Although it features a glamorous black-and-white shot of Angelica Huston on its cover-and it does look great sitting on a coffee table-you'll want to do more than simply admire it.
The book, subtitled, "The Best of the Best Dressed List," not only features spectacular images of women from each decade who were named to the list since its inception, but it also offers interesting insights into these women's personal style. Much of the information presented by Ms. Zilkha has never appeared in print until now.
"Ultimate Style" even has some Litchfield County connections. A stunning photo of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg wearing her famous wrap dress is found on page 104. Ms. von Furstenberg, who was named to Eleanor Lambert's list on more than one occasion, is quoted in the book as offering this piece of advice: "When you wake up you think what you're going to project that day-but you always dress to seduce."
Though she couldn't be seen during the phone interview, Ms. Zilkha reported that she was wearing new, chic white pants purchased on her recent trip to Italy and a pink Michael Stars T-shirt-with gold flip-flops as the outfit's exclamation point.
The new pants are "cut beautifully," and required no alterations, explained the fashionista, who said that she typically has a difficult time getting things to fit her petite frame. They "were made for me," she said.
The talented writer certainly earned her Italian vacation and that pair of pants. Ms. Zilkha, who is refreshingly candid, inherited the responsibility of preparing fashion's "International Best Dressed List" from the late fashion doyenne and publicist, Ms. Lambert, who died last year at the age of 100, and with the book she has created a masterpiece that was two years in the making. People who love and follow fashion are buzzing about "Ultimate Style."
With a foreword by the late Ms. Lambert herself, who was responsible for introducing legendary fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin to the press, and who started the International Best Dressed List in 1940 as a publicity stunt to bolster the declining American fashion industry at the outset of World War II, "Ultimate Style" presents the history of the famous list through illustration, and recounts the story of how it became so notable.
In addition to Angelica Huston and Diane von Furstenberg, other prominent women featured on the best of The Best Dressed List, and profiled in the book include Slim Keith (who used to be a guest of the late Bill Blass at his New Preston country home), The Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, Twiggy, Raquel Welch, Sharon Stone, Aerin Lauder and Nicole Kidman.
Even Ms. Zilkha's mother, Mrs. Ezra Zilkha, whom the author credits for helping her develop a sense of style, also made The Best Dressed List in 1996 by way of a special citation. Other "special citations" that same year went to Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn and Mrs. Randolph Hearst, among other women of note.
"I was fascinated with her shoe closet," said Ms. Zilkha of her mother. When I asked Ms. Zilkha if a sense of style could be cultivated, or if it had to be innate, she said that it can be acquired if a woman is open to it and has the proper exposure. But, she cautioned, "You have to really love it. It can't be an effort. If it's a chore, then why [bother]?"
When asked to name the top three hallmarks of a stylish woman, Ms. Zilkha immediately responded with "the right make-up … one good piece of jewelry [and] great shoes. They can be flat sandals or high heels, but they need to be great."
As for coming trends, the color to watch for fall, predicts Ms. Zilkha, is purple, most prominently in its mauve incarnation.
She also forecasts that within a few years, handbags will incorporate more function into their designs, so that they are still pretty yet able to hold all of life's necessities, from electronic gizmos to lipstick.
Fur, she said, will continue to be big, and its faux version will always have a place in fashion, she said. Ms. Zilkha said she particularly likes faux furs by designer Dennis Basso.
While acknowledging that translating runway fashions-which are usually shown in such a "way out" manner that no woman would ever wear them-to the every-woman's closet can be a challenge, the fashion expert counseled that "90 percent of those pieces, taken by themselves, are gorgeous" and wearable.
The Hickory Stick Bookshop is located on Route 47 in Washington Depot. The number is 860-868-0525.
Melanie McMillan is Style Editor of The Litchfield County Times.