Do you compulsively check Vogue’s website during Fashion Week? Do you pore over street-style shots for outfit inspiration? Can you recite every line of The Devil Wears Prada from memory? Cool, sounds like you’re into fashion. As such, you need (need) to read the following five books, each of which provides an inside look into the weird, fascinating, and crazy-glam industry.
Cover: Random House; Background: Twenty20
Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
She of wild orange hair, Coddington began her career in fashion as a model. After a car accident dashed her dreams of on-camera fame, she went behind it, becoming one of the world’s most notable stylists and fashion editors, including a decades-long tenure as American Vogue’s creative director. Her 2012 memoir is a light and witty behind-the-scenes account of some of the most storied names in fashion – including photographers like Bruce Weber, models like Naomi Campbell, and her longtime boss and sometimes creative foil, Anna Wintour. Read this, then watch The September Issue, the 2009 Vogue documentary of which Coddington became the accidental star.
Cover: V&A Publishing; Background: Twenty20
How to Dress for Success by Edith Head
A legendary costume designer who dressed everyone from Mae West and Marlene Dietrich to Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, Edith Head won a record eight Oscars for her work on some of Hollywood’s most iconic movies, including All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While some of her dressing advice is hilariously outdated (she’s not a huge fan of pants on women), it holds up surprisingly well for a book that was written in 1967.
Cover: Ecco; Background: Twenty20
D.V. by Diana Vreeland
Before there was Anna Wintour, there was Diana Vreeland, the incomparable fashion editor and icon who ruled over Harper’s BAZAAR and Vogue in the mid-20th century. From gallivanting around Europe in the 1930s (before getting into the magazine business) to rubbing shoulders with New York’s elite in the 1950s and 60s, Vreeland’s 1984 autobiography is a whirlwind of her trademark witticisms (“Blue jeans are the most beautiful thing since the gondola”) and rendezvous with famous faces (like Clark Gable and Coco Chanel). But nothing ever feels too name check-y. Instead, it’s the larger-than-life legend’s words that steal the spotlight.
Cover: Harry N. Abrams; Background: Twenty20
The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior
A man who needs no introduction, Christian Dior’s impact on fashion is still felt today. His 1954 book, like Head’s, is occasionally outdated (like when he advises women against wearing bold jewelry before they’re married), but his more general notes are spot-on. “Elegance is not dependent on money… the most important [thing] is care,” he notes. “Care in choosing your clothes. Care in wearing them. Care in keeping them.” On top of timeless advice, The Little Dictionary of Fashion is packed with beautiful illustrations and definitions of general fashion terms – perfect for a prime placement on your coffee table.
Cover: Penguin Press; Background: Twenty20
Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano by Dana Thomas
When designers Alexander McQueen and John Galliano entered the fashion scene more than two decades ago, their work was something akin to a revolution. But despite their critical and commercial success, both had their fair share of demons. For McQueen, that meant a long battle with drug addiction and mental illness, eventually culminating in his suicide in 2010. Galliano, for his part, had a very public fall from grace in 2011 following an anti-Semitic outburst. (He has since made something of a somber comeback, though, most recently as creative director of Maison Margiela.) Far from a light and happy tome, it’s fascinating, nevertheless, to read about the darker side of a world that seems unflinchingly glamorous.
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