Isabel Toledo

Questions & answers. Excerpted from The Little Black Book of Style, by Nina Garcia.

Q: What is the secret to buying & wearing a strong shape?
A: The secret to wearing strong shapes is BODY LANGUAGE — a woman has to be comfortable in her own skin to make strong shapes work for her. Once you know yourself & understand how to use your body language, clothes with shape can enhance your graphic presence & help to project your own personal style.

Q: What is your secret to mixing the practical with the fantastical?
A: This is the essence of style for me. How you mix opposites & rearrange realities to get at a deeper truth. I love the practical & build everything around it first. Fantastical just happens when you are open to it & can evaporate just as quickly. It has been my experience that from the fantastical, often the practical is born.

Q: What is the one item of clothing every woman must have in her closet?
A: Underwear!!! For me, a wonderful wardrobe of exquisite underclothes is the ultimate luxury. It is what you first put on, & no matter what your look is, there is nothing that can elevate your mood as much as what you have on underneath it all. Different undergarments for different types of clothes are essential to make a look work for you.

Q: What do you find eternally stylish?
A: Good grooming is the one thing that is a permanently stylish element. When you are perfectly groomed, you can conquer the world… even in a pair of old jeans & a t-shirt!

Q: Who are some of the most stylish women you know?
A: I adore the classic generations’ sense of ageless style. Maria Feliz, Louise Bourgeois, Iris Apfel, Anna Piaggi, Louise Nevelson, Frida Kahlo — they have all shown us that an independent & confident sense of yourself is what it is all about. Diana Vreeland, who I had the fortune to intern with at the Costume Institute at the Met, had that gift all her life — the joy of living & dressing up or down for any challenge. We had the same shoe size & she would insist on trying on my picks that I found on Canal Street. That curiosity & enthusiasm is a real gift & the reward of a fertile mind & an open spirit — that is what fuels fashion!