Fashion by the book: If you're petite, want to model or are over 40, authors have advice for you

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Summer is always a good time to catch up on reading, and there are some new books on the market that address fashion trends and advice. Here are three that caught my eye:

Don't call them short people

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More than 20 million American women are 5 feet, 4 inches or shorter, which in fashion qualifies them as petite.

However, millions of petite woman buy clothes that don't flatter them. Such women are petite whether they are size 2 or size 16, whether they are shaped like a pear or a carrot or a circle or an hourglass.

Kim Williams Dahlman, a petite fashion specialist, has made it her mission to help petites understand that and to use that knowledge to dress their best. "The Petite Handbook," written in 2004 and in its second printing, is full of information to help petites shop wisely and dress with confidence. With a shape finder, accessories advice and shopping checklist, the colorful spiral-bound booklet can fit easily in a purse.

"I wanted sort of a 'Petite Dressing 101,'" said Ms. Dahlman, who was in Pittsburgh in March for an event at Macy's. "Everything you need to know in a nutshell. Other books are textbook style, where you really have to study them."

The author, a petite herself, knows her stuff. Over the past 20 years, she has worked as petite sportswear buyer for Allied Department Stores, corporate petite buyer for Belk Stores Services and director of sales for Susan Bristol Petites. She's appeared on numerous national television shows to share her expertise and travels the country presenting fashion shows, workshops and motivational programs for petites.

"I saw a huge need for a specialist in the field who would go out and do events and work one-on-one with customers," said Ms. Dahlman, who is based in Florida. "There are so many petite women out there that don't realize they should be wearing petite clothing and would get a better fit in the petite department. It's rewarding to get them to see how much better they're going to look in clothing that fits them right."

"The Petite Handbook" (Fidelity Press, $10.95) is available at thepetitehandbook.com and amazon.com.

How to pursue modeling

I routinely receive phone calls and e-mails from people who want advice about how to launch a modeling career. They want to know things such as where to get training, which agencies are credible and how to connect with clients.

Kim Williams Dahlman, author of "The Petite Handbook."
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Now, there's a great, updated resource I would highly recommend. It's "The Compete Idiot's Guide to Being a Model, Second Edition," written by former big-time model Roshumba Williams with New York freelance writer Anne Marie O'Connor (Alpha Books, $18.95).

Ms. Williams appeared on the covers and pages of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue and other magazines before moving into a career in television. But she didn't forget all the lessons she had learned in modeling, and she passes them on.

There's loads of information, from portfolio contents, interview tips and advice on finding an agent to open calls, model searches and making it through those first stressful photo shoots. It's an excellent guide, and one is left to wonder why former supermodel Tyra Banks of "America's Next Top Model" fame didn't beat Ms. Williams to the punch.

Beauty beyond 40

At a time when increasing numbers of women are paying big bucks for cuts, slices and injections to fight signs of aging, makeup artist Bobbi Brown wants to show them how to look younger with cosmetics.

She does that with her fourth book, "Bobbi Brown Living Beauty" (Springboard Press, $29.99). It targets women over age 40 with numerous step-by-step techniques, including how to use makeup to plump lips, lift cheeks and even out skin tone.

There are also explanations of dermatological techniques and photos and words of inspiration from famous over-40 beauty icons such as Vera Wang, Lorraine Bracco, Marcia Gay Harden and Vanessa Williams.

Ms. Brown, who recently turned 50, has built an industry on her expertise in creating a flawless face. She expanded her company to include makeup accessories and perfumes, writes a monthly column in Prevention women's health magazine and authors a feature on makeup tips at oprah.com.

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Post-Gazette fashion editor LaMont Jones can be reached at ljones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1469.


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