By John Burton
RED BANK – Dorothy Whitehouse believes it’s never too early to release that fashionista that is in every little girl.
Whitehouse has written a book for young girls – and some not so young – that is intended to do just that.
What is taffeta, anyway, and when is it appropriate to wear? Can one wear suede in the spring? And, what’s with satin and silk?
In her book, Monique’s Boutique, Whitehouse offers a trip to a boutique for readers, primarily girls between the ages of 3-7, where different fabrics are explained and actual samples incorporated into the illustrations. The book is sort of a primer for little girls’ entree into the world of fashion and the role it will play in their lives.
Whitehouse, a Rumson resident, said she wanted to offer girls a fun trip to the boutique and give a little instruction along the way.
Given her own background, her choice of subject matter might seem a little bit surprising. Growing up a self-described tomboy, and still maintaining an interest in sports (she worked for ESPN for a number of years) while raising two sons, now ages 5 and 3, Whitehouse said she became interested in the idea of creating a touch-and-feel sort of book.
“So it occurred to me it would be great to write a book that describes fabric and how and where to wear them,” she said.
Whitehouse spent about three years researching, writing and working with her illustrators to create what eventually became Monique’s Boutique.
“It was a lot of legwork,” to research for the book itself, she acknowledged. What was also quite time consuming was researching the publishing end of the business.
Whitehouse eventually partnered with Asian Pacific Press in New York City to self-publish her work. By working outside of traditional publishing, it allowed her and her illustrators, Francesca and Rick Weber, to take more control over the total project. She was able to have a say in the book’s dimensions, paper stock, even very small details like rounding off the corners of the book’s covers, making it a little safer for her young readers.
She has enjoyed writing, ever since she was a girl. Her father always offered his support and encouragement. But fashion, she acknowledged was her mother’s realm. “My mom is the epitome of grace,” Whitehouse offered, saying her mother’s style went beyond being able to put herself together. “When she walks into a room,” she draws attention.
As a youngster Whitehouse wasn’t particularly fashion conscious, but remembered she has “always loved accessories.” She eventually recognized that it was “fun to dress up and look sharp.”
Fashion and a sense of style ultimately have significance in our lives, she said. “There are a lot of assumptions made, fortunately or unfortunately,” based upon how one presents him- or herself, she said. “I think, if you go into an interview and you’re not buttoned up,” and appropriately presentable, she said, “I think people will notice.
“It doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot,” to create the right look, either. “It’s about how you look and how you put it together.”
Since the book debuted in late November sales have been rather strong given the limited outlets for it, she said. More than 400 copies of Monique’s Boutique have been sold so far. The book is available at River Road Books in Fair Haven, Kidegories in Shrewsbury, Toy Box in Colts Neck, Neiman Marcus in Short Hills and through Whitehouse’s website, www.skippin-stones.com. The book retails for $17.99.
Whitehall, who operates her own marketing firm, Skippin’ Stones in Red Bank, said she enjoyed writing the book and now has two more almost completed.
Her next effort will be a scratch-and-sniff variety about perfume, which should be published in about 18 months, she said.
Whitehouse said she has learned two major lessons from her experiences in life and fashion.
In life, “I always say live, do something different every day, don’t be comfortable.”
As for fashion advice, “I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed,” she said. “My mother taught me that.”