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These days the stylistically challenged have no shortage of fashion guides with snappy names and cumbersome subtitles. Want to look like Nicole Richie? Read Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, & Everything Glamour. Or learn how to make it work with Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. And for those in search of a more individual look, there’s the newly released Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno, a handbook that instructs its readers on the latest in Tokyo street fashion.

But can true glamour be gleaned from between the covers of a book? Or is the recent plethora of style books just an attempt to cash in this holiday season? As several recent releases demonstrate, writing a fashion handbook that’s useful and creative is far from easy. Often, a four page magazine layout about how to dress for your body type can deliver more compact and helpful advice than a whole book on the same subject. In fact, authors of style guides often resort to repeating a few key tips over and over or to giving vague advice like “Play with colour” and “Have fun with accessories”.

However, one can find the rare original among the sea of fashion knock offs. Beauty Confidential, by former magazine editor Nadine Haobsh, actually lives up to its hyperbolic subtitle (“The No Preaching, No Lies, Advice-You’ll- Actually-Use Guide to Looking Your Best”) by offering down to earth advice about beauty products and treatments. Likewise, The 5-Minute Face: The Quick & Easy Makeup Guide for EveryWoman by celebrity make up artist Carmindy provides useful step by step instructions and visuals.

As for the rest? Well, in this glutted market, only the most fashionable will survive…

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