Come as You Are 

Award-winning fashion designer and author Isaac Mizrahi headlines at benefit fashion show.

Looking good isn't about becoming a slave to corporate logos and mainstream fashion trends, insists world-renowned fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who discusses and signs his new book How to Have Style as part of a benefit fashion show on October 16 at the Diablo Country Club (1700 Clubhouse Rd., Diablo), cosponsored by Rakestraw Books. Rather, it's about "identifying the things you love and learning how to let them inspire you and everything you wear."

For instance, he explains: "When you wake up in the morning, your first impulses should not be discarded. You think 'flowers.' You think 'stilettos.' You think 'gray-blue.' Those first thoughts need to be encouraged into physical evidence of who you are. This is your subconscious screaming out for attention." He makes it sound so easy and yet so difficult: Who knew that getting dressed every day was really a therapy session? Mizrahi's book begins with a questionnaire whose questions include "What would you never be caught wearing?" and "Why does your favorite painting or photograph appeal to you?" Subsequent chapters profile actual women — not professional models, but ordinary people whom Mizrahi helped. Thirty-year-old Bianca travels a lot for business, so she relies on neutral hues. Yet she believes that her real self is the one who loves to relax in Puerto Rico, wearing Caribbean-bright tops and jeans. Mizrahi provides tips for using accessories and eveningwear to brighten up neutral palettes. At six-foot-one and age fifty, Lisa felt at once invisible and too visible. Mizrahi helped her reconnect with the glamorous movie musicals that had inspired her style in younger years. For instance, "four generations of family-heirloom wedding rings stacked on her pinky finger became an instant classic. After a certain age, don't wear garish costume jewelry." As for the classic night-on-the-town, jeans-and-heels-and-fancy-top look, it makes Mizrahi feel as if "I'm going to scream." He wants to ask the wearers, "Do you get why that look is boring? It does nothing to tell us who you are. You may feel sexy and safe, but that won't get you noticed."

The country-club event's $40 admission fee includes a copy of the book; proceeds benefit Wardrobe for Opportunity, a Bay Area nonprofit that has been giving high-quality professional clothes to low-income job seekers since 1995. Local stylist Carolyn Rovner of C2Style will be dressing Wardrobe for Opportunity clients for the fashion show. Currently creative director for the Liz Claiborne brand, Mizrahi muses: "I work with plenty of types of women: some skinny, some average, and some actually fat." Despite what envious people might think, he notes, "many times the traditional size-8 woman is the least stylish and the most self-loathing, and the woman who is more voluptuous may be radiant, stylish, and sexy because she is confident and doesn't hate what she sees every time she looks in the mirror. Children need to be told how beautiful they are again and again, until they finally believe it." Amen to that. 7 p.m.


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