cosmopolitan magazine has long had an iron grip on impressionable female readers who are prepared to pay money to be told they're fat slobs who should get off the couch, polish their nails and their resumes, bake muffins, jog, deep-condition their hair and then give their boyfriends expert blow jobs, all in the name of glorious self-improvement. And Cosmo being Cosmo, the aforementioned tasks come with handy instructions. Cosmo isn't among the list of fashion and lifestyle magazines author Anna Johnson has worked for, but she clearly recognizes that the mag's broad-based, quick-hit survival-guide appeal was ripe for a full book treatment.
Essentially, Three Black Skirts functions as a manual for girls -- just like Cosmo, only more in-depth and without depressing photos of impossibly perfect models. Alas, no dishy agony column either.
Banner topics such as Style, Life Skills and Mood Management pretty much make the point, and the clothing and workaday tips Johnson imparts are sensible and coherently presented. They are also perfectly obvious to most adult women who've already wrangled with the complexities of ironing silk and smudging eyeliner.
That said, Three Black Skirts would be ideal for teens just starting to ponder the correct way to accessorize, why flesh-coloured bras are wardrobe essentials and why it's important to talk to Dad no matter how distant he seems. Johnson's prose is accessible and encouraging, her suggestions are practical and the accompanying illustrations sweet, not threatening.
Most of us discovered the horrors of home bang trims and pubic shaving the hard way.
With Johnson's book in hand, a new generation of young women needn't suffer an accidental Suzy Quatro or an unsightly blanket of blotchy red dots. KIM HUGHESTHREE BLACK SKIRTS: ALL YOU NEED TO SURVIVE by Anna Johnson (Workman Publishing), 238 pages, $21.95 paper. Rating: NNNI will survive