Each season on Project Runway, "Fashion Director for Elle Magazine" Nina Garcia gets bitcher and bitchier as she gets more famous. She's enough to remind us why we never worked for a fashion magazine. That, and we're not a size 2. Nina has a new book coming out after Labor Day called The Little Black Book of Style, where she imparts her wisdom about the world of fashion unto others for the low, low price of $17.95, or just $3.95 more than a year's subscription to Elle. Money well spent, undoubtedly. In Chapter Three—"Inspirations"—Nina teaches us about international fashion. Because she never met a stereotype she didn't like. Also, women everywhere are rich! The highlights follow.

[T]here is nothing like walking through the halls of the Louvre or watching an Italian woman move through the streets of Rome. These are the informal lessons a girl doesn't soon forget. Wherever we went, I would notice how differently women dressed in each country. I would also watch as my mother picked up the styles, buying the necklaces and dresses and bringing them back to Colombia. These women—the women of the world and my mother—showed me how the best sources of inspiration are often found outside of your area code. It doesn't matter where you go; it's what you bring home.


    There is a strong focus on femininity and standards of personal grooming that the South American woman adheres to every single day. The standards are not only a matter of presentation, but a matter of moral fiber. There is a notion, passed down from generation to generation, that your physical presentation reflects the person you are on the inside. Through everyday pageantry, there is an aura of effortless chic and a display of correctness inside and out that never lets up.

    For these women, style is never created; it simply is. And it has meaning. Take the Hermès bag, for example. The French woman carries hers because it is an heirloom, not because it is an "it bag."
  • ASIA

    Throughout Asia, style is laced with ritual and culture. The geisha, for example, with her unremitting attention to luxuriant, theatrical beauty, has cultivated a sense of feminine mystery for centuries.

    On a daily basis, the women in India are ensconced in extreme color, sparkle, and texture. They wear endlessly ornate, gold-and-enamel jewels quite unabashedly, with silken saris of every hue. The important events of their lives are usually punctuated by a ritualized approach to the kind of beauty that is laden with custom and tradition.

    For women in Africa, ornamentation has always been paramount to style, and their perspective is reminiscent of queens and goddesses. Elaborate head wraps, luminous colors, organic textures, and jewels of all kinds characterize the impacting power-beauty of the African woman. For obvious reasons, these women have had to reclaim their style throughout the centuries, forging an even stronger sense of pride and alliance to these roots.

    In America, the promises of possibility and inspirations are limitless. Anything that might catch your eye is worth the trek, but you do not have to travel far. If you cannot get away, go to the ethnic shops in your neighborhood. But wherever you go, be it Tokyo or the local Indian store, this is the time to buy with drama. Bring back something fantastic. Pull out all the stops. Humidity be damned, forget about modesty, leave the trends behind, and have a little fun.

Seriously, what's the obsession with humidity?