Vanessa V. Friedman
August 12, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Fashionably Late (Book - Olivia Goldsmith)

Current Status
In Season
Olivia Goldsmith

We gave it a B+

Look, out there on the best-seller list…it’s a fashion industry expose! It’s a woman’s coming-of-age book! It’s a dysfunctional family/screaming biological clock/reneging birth mother blowout! Actually, it’s the latest novel from one of the more successful disciples of Judith Krantz — which is to say it is all of the above and none of them at exactly the same time. Fashionably Late is the story of Karen Kahn, a middle-class Jewish girl from Brooklyn who becomes a highly successful clothing designer and bears a startling resemblance to that other sprung-from-the-middle-class designer Donna Karan. The book is peopled by the usual beautiful suspects — Calvin, Linda, Iman, Anna Wintour — as well as some more generic types: the everygayman hairdresser, the everyimmigrantwoman seamstress, the everybusinessman sleazeball. But then, you don’t read Olivia Goldsmith for her finely etched character studies. The world of her heroine, who has a tendency to sprinkle both Yiddish and French phrases throughout her conversation, may seem glamorous, but it’s crumbling around her. Adultery, betrayal, and true friendship are the real subjects here; unfortunately, they’re not as exciting or interesting as the glitz. As Goldsmith well knows, fashion people have become the superstars of the ’90s, but what she has forgotten is that we don’t want to see our superstars with feet of clay. We want to see them in rhinestone-strapped Manolo Blahniks. The real Donna Karan is a lot more interesting than her fictional counterpart. Which is not to say the book won’t sell like Donna Karan bodysuits. B+

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