Some of the easiest books to pick up -- and put down -- during the summer are in the hefty selection of fashion and beauty-related books that surface each year. This list, although far from complete, is drawn from the current crop. (A discussion of Adrien Arpel's "How To Look Ten Years Younger" will appear next week.)
"The Cowboy Catalog," by Sandra Kauffman (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., $10.95) -- If you dream of being an urban cowboy, or any other kind, you might as well get the details straight. This book gives the range of top cowboy gear and the lingo: "Agitated as a June Bug" means pretty upset and "Sorry as a buzzard's guts" means smelling badly. There are guides to how to find, fit and maintain your cowboy gear, as well as your horse's.
The author is a member of the family of Kauffman & Sons Sadderly in New York, one of the most respected suppliers of riding gear and accessories to ranchers, rodeos and cowboys. Photographs and sketches are more fun than Old Western.
"the Complete Book of Hair Care, Hairstyling and Hairstylists," by Linda Sue Fine (Arco Linda Sue Fine (Arco Publishing, Inc. $6.95) -- Summer is a good time to play with changing your hairstyle. If all goes wrong you can blame it on the sun, the pool, whatever. But if you have to run out of ideas, they're here, with clear directions. And the photographs are of ordinary enough looking women -- as opposed to staggeringly attractive -- with whom you can relate.
"The Skin Book: Looking and Feeling Your Best Through Proper Skin Care," by Dr. Arnold W. Klein, Dr. James H. Sternberg and Paul Bernstein (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. $9.95) -- To be opened the minute you get to the beach or pool, this book is about feeling good (or not) and how that affects your appearance.
Some examples of the professional advice: Emollient creams with corticosteroids are effective for treating severe sunburns; it's the female mosquito doing the biting (the male is a vegetarian), and she likes dark, warm, perfumed skin, particularly of women on the pill or hormones; for those who come out of the pool with blond hair a bit greenish from the chlorine, the authors suggest shampooing immediately afterwards, and if the hair is still green, rinsing it with a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide (3 percent).
"Cutting a Fashionable Fit, Dressmakers' Drafting Systems in the United States" by Claudia Kidwell (Smithsonian Institution Press 5.50) -- Often as intriguing as the final products are the techniques and tools for making them. That's why this study by Kidwell -- she's the curator, Department of Social and Nationl History -- has far more appeal than just to fashion intellectuals. Her book shows the development of systems within the social and economic setting of the period and how discoveries of the period and how discoveries of the period, for example, affected both decoration and shape of clothing.
"Birds of Paradise" by Rose Hartman (Dell and Delta, $9.95) -- If you are in the fashion business, there are few surprises in Rose Hartman's writing and photographs. But for others, it may provide fascinating insights into machinations of the business, from the design of clothes to their presentation in store windows. The story of how particular designs get started is often far more interesting than the clothes themselves.
If nothing else, this book will give you a clue -- from anecdotes about personal life styles of designers, to publicity bashes to the high price of models -- as to why clothes cost so much.
"Disco Dressing," by Leonard McGill (Prentice-Hall, Inc. $12.95) -- Heaven forbid you should wear the wrong clothes to a disco. If you haven't heard that discos are fading, then you probably care about wearing what others at the disco will consider stylish. According to your disco mood (futuristic, preppy, basic, rock 'n' roll, whatever), this book has the formula for what you should wear.
"The Indispensable Shopping Guide: London/Paris/rome," by Leona Bowman, Jo-an Jenkins and Patricia McColl (Atheneum, $8.95) -- If you are Europe-bound this summer, or would just like to dream about a trip, this large paperback is just the ticket.
McColl and Jenkins live abroad and work there for Macy's and the Fashion Newsletter: impeccable credentials for a shopping guide, since they "shop" professionally full time. The book is well laid out, with shopping by neighborhoods, with lots of lively background stuff, and worthy tips on how to spend your money wisely. It includes, as well, restaurants in most of the areas to give you sustenance as you go on your shopping (or just-looking) trek.
"Dressing Thin" by Dale Goday with Molly Cochran (Simon and Schuster, $3.95) -- If the fact that wearing your stripes up and down -- rather than sideways -- is more slenderizing comes as a surprise, this may be the book for you.
The rest of the news for those who are less than skinny is as predictable: V-necks are better than round; peasant looks may make you look like a well-fed peasant; raglan sleeves are not. For more of the same, buy the book.
"Elephants in Your Mailbox," by Roger Horchow (Times Books, $12.50) -- Roger Horchow has written a book about THE book, the Horchow Catalogue. And while the text may not be as slick as in one of those shiny-paged catalogues, it is intriguing to find out how things are discovered and selected, and just what sells. And reading this book is probably cheaper than spending too much time with one of his many enticing catalogues. or church fairs -- your bonus from someone else's spring cleaning -- library overloads and the like. The books may never have made anyone's best-seller list, but they could be just the thing to laze away a hot afternoon in the hammock.
And they could make a great beachhouse gift for someone who cares year-round about clothes.