Books on fashion can solve a lot of gift problems for the man or woman who cares about clothes. They are convenient to buy, easy to wrap and mail, and often show up on sale racks. And they can make a splendid gift for oneself.
Among the more interesting -- and mostly untouted -- ones to come out recently:
"The Official Preppy Handbook," edited by Lisa Birnbach (Workman Publishing, $3.98).
This is a very funny book with "essential" information as general as how to display wedding gifts (on a white damask cloth on the dining-room table with all the Tiffany crystal vases lined up together), to as specific as where to go in Washington on a Thursday night (The Tombs). Also includes the proper name, clothes, ancestry, pet, college-room decor, attitude toward the opposite sex (no PDA, public display of affection, for one), and the proper preppy causes.
"The Dental Face Lift, a Consumer Guide to Cosmetic Dentistry ," by Milvin Denholtz, D.D.S., and Elaine Denholtz (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., $14.95).
You thought you didn't get the job because you were unqualified? Or because of the administration change? Hold on. Here comes a theory hinting that the problem may be your teeth. Teeth? Enter the dental facelift.
The authors make a pretty convincing case. Boxer Leon Spinks, for example (two missing front teeth), was hardly besieged by offers to sponsor products. His defeated opponent, Muhammad Ali (a full mouth of teeth) was.
Spinks is a candidate for a dental facelift and so are you, say the authors, if among other reasons, when you smile you cover your mouth with your hand, have buck teeth, loose dentures, discolored or broken teeth, or simply don't like your smile.
And if you have no teeth and no false teeth, a dental facelift, say the authors, will do wonders.
"Magic Names of Fashion ," by Ernestine Carter (Prentice-Hall, Inc., $12.95).
What sets this book apart from other recent fashion books is the wide range of designers and fashion influences spotlighted.Among them, Beau Brummell, Worth, Molyneaux, Mainbocher, Pucci, Cardin, Carmel Snow, John Fairchild, Diana Vreeland, Laura Ashley, Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Calvin Klein and Saint Laurent. The most serious shortcoming of the book is its lack of art. Fashion is a visual thing: Even a photo of each personality would have helped.
"Heavy Can Be Happy ," by Evelyn Roaman and Dee Ratterree (lippincott & Crowell, $10.95).
The biggest thing about this book is the good feeling the author has about being big herself. Otherwise, the fashion tips sound familiar (and sensible). bShe give a convincing list of reasons for not dieting, including (obviously) hunger, expensive fluctuation in clothing size, lack of proper vitamins and minerals, baldness, wrinkled and saggy skin, headaches, dizziness, lack of energy, bad breath, kidney problems, marital problems and many more.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Roaman has been spokesperson for the Roaman chain of stores for large-size women for almost 40 years.
"In a Glamorous Fashion ," by W. Robert LaVine (Charles Scribner's Sons, $25).
Hollywood was America's couture -- both in creativity and workmanship -- for the first half of the 20th century. LaVine covers the subject well, as a documentary of films and costumes and with biographies of film creators, gossip and a generous dose of photos.
"Shopping Smart ," by John Stossel (G.P.Putnam's Sons, $9.95).
We all need all the help we can get on spending money wisely. This book is full of good information, but not all of it is applicable. Example: Stossel suggests buying Grade B eggs. "They are just as nutritious as grade A or AA and they taste the same." He's right, and they would be less expensive if you could find them.
"Sportsfashion ," by France-Michele Adler (Avon, $7.95).
A worthy review of fashion for sports and some ways to adapt authentic sporting gear and uniforms to daily wardrobes. Good photographs of both old and new sports costumes.
"Good Garb ," by William Dasheff and Laura Dearborn (Delta, $9.95).
The Cook's Catalogue of clothing, with virtually every wearable item identified and described. Good consumer information on each category, such as an analysis of six common types of shoe construction, shoe care, proper fit, custom shoe making, and a list of where to buy.