Books dispense stylish advice

Some women awake to a closet full of crisp gabardine suits. Their handbags are tasteful, their shoes well-shined. Perhaps you are one of these women; I am not. My boots are scuffed, my dresser drawers a tangle of socks and belts. And so any book that promises a more winsome wardrobe or a better-organized closet is of interest to me.

The latest passel of fashion advice titles promises quite a bit. Some books live up to the hype, while others contain more hot air than one of last year's bubble skirts. Here, three recent releases of note:

Nina Garcia

Collins, $18

You'd expect any book by a "Project Runway" judge to serve up some good dish. Nina Garcia's lips are sealed on matters relating to the show -- and that's a shame, because what the Elle magazine fashion director presents instead is the kind of style advice anyone older than 12 has heard before. Among the revelations: Every woman should own a white shirt and a little black dress. Good shoes are important. Style is about clothes, yes, but also "confidence" and "mystery." Um, OK.

The book's saving grace is its lovely illustrations. The work of Ruben Toledo, they're as inspired as Garcia's writing is prosaic. Toledo and Garcia are one high-low mix that just doesn't match.

Christian Dior

Abrams, $20

Christian Dior abhors women who wear high heels with slacks. To him, the color purple is a hue "full of dangers." As for whether a woman should wear a hat? It's nothing less than "the most pressing problem of this time."

These statements make a bit more sense when you consider that "this time" was 1954, when Dior's little dictionary was originally published. Much of what the designer says feels surprisingly contemporary.

Most of Dior's missives are about practical ways to add style to everyday life. You'll find tips on which colors will flatter your coloring and ways to look chic without spending too much money, ideas that are staples of modern-day advice books.

Rachel Zoe with Rose Apodaca

Grand Central, $25

Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe made her name dressing tabloid fixtures such as Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton and Lindsay Lohan. If you aspire to look like these women, you will find this guide indispensable. If you do not, you might have a good time flipping through it anyway; the book is a narcissistic gem, packed full of photos. Zoe with celebrities, Zoe with fashion designers, Zoe solo. Plus illustrations.

Her premise is that life should be glamorous, and so her list of inexpensive "essentials" includes spiky heels and a faux fur shrug. But this is not merely a guide to dressing; it's a guide to life. Witness the quasi-inspirational sayings peppered throughout: "Dreaming is real," is one.