Book Shelf: Reference books for Kate

Book Shelf: Reference books for Kate 
This morning I got two insights into marriage: when you've been married for "a million years, it doesn't matter about sharing cutlery", according to a lady sharing brunch with her husband in a cafe. And "Each week, we ask ourselves, 'how generous have I been to my spouse?'" from my mother-in-law. As I contemplate spending 12 hours in a car with my husband en route to Sydney and Kate and Wills attempt to live a life of normalcy and modesty at a farmhouse in Wales, these three snappy titles are food for thought and discussion in regards to marital management and fashion...

Spousonomics: Or how to maximize returns on the biggest investment of your life by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson (Bantem Press, $27.95) 
Penned by two savvy and hilarious New York journalists (Szuchman for The Wall Street Journal; Anderson for The New York Times), who are also wives and mums, the thesis of Spousonomics is this: "Economics is the surest route to marital bliss". Which is not to say you need major amounts of cash (we all know marriage is the great class equalizer), but a basic understanding of give-and-take economic theory to make your investment pay dividends. 

The ladies did their research – "we hit the library, read the classics, maxed out our credit cards on Amazon, fell deep into the econosphere (yes, economists blog)" – talking to economists ("a surprisingly romantic bunch") in addition to hiring professionals to conduct a "Exhaustive, Groundbreaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey", as well as conducting qualitative interviews with couples and attending workshops hosted by relationships pros.

The result: a well researched, problem/solutions based book that packs some major fun into the math of marriage. While the overarching theme could be summed up in a singular, overarching concept captured for Kate and Wills by the Bishop of London – "in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another" – which underwrites 'division of labor', 'loss aversion', 'supply and demand', 'moral hazard', 'incentives', 'trade-offs' and 'game theory', the entertainment factor combined with fa crash course in Economics 101 make the book prime investment material for numbers nerds, the commitment averse and partners-for-life alike.

The Art of Being a Well Dressed Wife by Anne Fogarty (Bloomsbury, $24.99)
Kate is hardly going to turn into a tracksuit-wearing sloth, but with such interest in her appearance – and every blog, newspaper and British Grazia fashion scribe ready to let rip with a critical pen – she'd do well to take in some advice from the late American fashion designer Anne Fogarty. 

Fogarty is no Tina Fey when it comes to fashion: she takes it verrrrrrry seriously. But while her 1959 compendium to post-nuptial dressing will be read in 2011 with a healthy degree of feminist hilarity ("Remember that it's your husband for whom you're dressing") or even gasping horror: ("decide how you can improve your physical proportions to fit the image you have of yourself"), it's hard not to become utterly convinced that you should be investing more into your wardrobe and appearance, too. The "fascinating business of wife-dressing" is many things, she says, including a contributing factor to a happy marriage: "the only thing all wives have in common are husbands – and a wish, I hope, to make them happy and proud of us as women."

In the finest of fonts and a friendly but firm tone, drawing on experience, professional expertise and a refined and disciplined sartorial sensibility ("dress habits are like table manners"; "courage and discretion is a clarion cry for individuality") – with a dash of sympathy and joviality – Fogarty sets about addressing all manner of sartorial matters, sharing personal anecdotes to illustrate her points. "Queen Anne Boleyn arouses little twinges of envy in me because I read somewhere that she wore her gowns once and tossed them to some lady-in-waiting," she writes. "When I mentioned this enchanting fact to my husband late one night when I was feeling too sleepy to hang up my dress, his only remark was, 'That's why Henry the Eighth had her killed'." Fogarty is so persuasive in her advice – to husbands as well as wives - that she might have you considering a glove wardrobe, pastel tweed for cocktails in town or "fancy pants" for an informal dinner buffet.

101 Things I Learned in Fashion School by Alfredo Caberera and Matthew Frederick (Grand Central Publishing, $23.99)
With an interest in fashion but no time to attend Central Saint Martins with all her royal commitments, Alfredo Cabrera – who has taught, lectured and served as a critic at Parsons The New School for Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Pratt Institute, and the Altos de Chanon School of Design – and Matthew Frederick (creator, illustrator, editor of the 101 Things I Learned series) presents sage advice in 101 points. "It took me years as a working designer to realize the importance of identifying a real living customer and recognizing what he or she will and won't wear," writes Cabrera. "Far from being anti-creative, it was for me the beginning of true creativity. For what is creativity if it isn't to take something existing in one's head and give it relevance in the real world?"

As with Spousonomics' translation of economic theory, 101Things gives students of design, writers of the sartorial kind and women with more than a passing interest in the business of fashion a grounding wealth of knowledge in simple point format to draw from, including 'The Five C's of good pre-design'; 'Who does what', which explores the roles in the fashion production process; 'How to cut fabric'; and 'Take measurements with ease'. The more involved advice is interspersed with designer quotes and Cabrera and Frederick's own philosophies ("Your shoes say who you are; your hair or hat says how you wish to be perceived"; "If you feel like a misunderstood genius, it might be because you're not a genius"). A handy little compendium for princesses – or university tutors unschooled in textiles, illustration and conceptual design like moi – who find themselves mixing it with fashiony types.

Girl With a Satchel