(A book review by Contributor, Suzanne Paddock)
“To all the girls who’ve ever wanted to shop, dress, eat, party, travel and Instagram like a fashion editor. Now you can date like one.”
So starts off All’s Fair in Love and Wardrobe: A Fashion Editor’s Rules on Shopping for Love by Stephanie Simons, “fashion editor, television beauty expert, and single girl about town”. The concept to have an inside look at the exclusive dating world of a fashionista definitely intrigued me. What are their dating lives like? Does being a fashionista immune you from rejection, get you any man you want? What hidden fashion knowledge has this elusive enclave cloistered from the rest of us?
The book stays true to its intent, literally consisting of 121 succinct dating “rules” with a few “closet confession” vignettes and a smattering of dinner and drink recipes, how-to’s, and other odds and ends all interspersed by fantastic watercolor illustrations.
The illustrations, drawn and painted by Malia Carter, really make the book. They bring the words on the page to life and solidify the book’s playful, coquettish and feminine vibe by creating a unifying flow and narrative consistency to the varying rules and sundry text.
The sumptuous illustrations and punchy text make the experience less like reading a book and more like flipping through an, albeit, lengthy magazine spread. It’s a very quick and easy read.
Simons almost exclusively uses metaphor to compare how shopping and fashion relate to dating. The comparisons range from the banal, Rule 93: “A purely physical attraction has about as much value as a gorgeous pair of shoes you can’t walk in,” to the at times almost thoughtful, Rule 80: “The “happily ever after” you read about in fairy tales comes from within, just like shinier, healthier, thicker hair comes from eating at least two daily servings of iron-rich foods,” to the downright offensive, Rule 4: “At some point a man may informally say to you, “Let’s get married!” Without jewelry as collateral, this is merely his way of putting your love on layaway,” (and numerous other oppressive comments about exploiting unpaid interns, using the term “Indian givers” – I could go on).
Most of the comparisons fall flat and offer little insight. Rule 64: “Look before you leap into any sort of final sale arrangement for the rest of your life.” But they also reveal that this purported group of fashionistas experience the same level of confusion about male behaviour (Rule 2: “Men ask for numbers they’ll never call, like women buy clothes they’ll never wear), rejection and heartbreak as they rest of us; it’s good to be reminded of our common fallibility after all.
And the book did provide some warm human moments. In a list of “pity party” ideas to organize post break-up, one suggestion included, “Do make it a potluck and have everyone bring a Post-It with their biggest qualm about him written on it”. This made me chuckle. We’ve all relished asking our friends what they really think of our ex as we struggle to convince ourselves it’s all for the best when things don’t work out.
All’s Fair offers a glimpse into the values and thoughts of at least one mainstream fashionista’s perspectives on dating but provides little in the way of any fashion insight. The illustrations do charm and give the book that magazine layout feel, making it somewhat entertaining.
As I read the rules and pondered how hard dating can be, I reflected on my own dating journey and felt a faint but collective sense of sadness and fear, as many of us struggle with the idea of being alone. Not quite the fashion editor’s bravado I expected, but certainly in line with its title.