When it comes to fashion, there are so many great stories. From Coco Chanel to Calvin Klein, it’s a world where intrigue, beauty and money have co-existed for centuries. But not all fashion tomes are glossy, flick-and-dream coffee table candy.
Here are five fantastic tales of frocks, fantasy and felony.
Grace: A Memoir.
Remember the fabulous, formidable flame-haired Fashion Editor in The September Issue? This is her book. Grace Coddington, Creative Director of American Vogue and right hand woman to Anna Wintour is one of fashion’s most interesting, prolific and respected players. A true taste-maker, her editorials have created trends and iconic images over the last three decades. From her early modelling days with Norman Parkinson, to having her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon, kissing Mick Jagger and moving to New York, the book chronicles her time in London when the fashion scene was exploding.
The more contemporary chapters are much tamer – presumably because she still works at the pointy end of the fashion plane and likes her job – but still provides an intimate look at her two marriages and romance with Didier Malige, the untimely death of her sister, Rosemary, and good friend, Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief, Liz Tilberis, and her long-standing relationship with Anna Wintour. It’s a fascinating peek into the mind of one of the world’s great stylists peppered with Grace’s own illustrations and photographs.
Quotable quote: “They could be pretty bitchy, those fashion-mad French girls. I would never dare talk back to them. For me, the French were always so superior in matters of style. England was cool but never chic.” Grace Coddington.
CLICK TO BUY: Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington.
Queen Of Fashion.
Marie Antoinette’s life and image are the subject of countless books, plays and art. In Queen of Fashion, author Caroline Weber shows how the young princess took control over her public persona through what she wore and how she wore it. The book begins with the young princess’s arrival in France and describes how she was stripped of her Austrian aesthetic (literally at the country’s border) and re-dressed in French attire to assume her new role as Queen.
By the time she took the throne, however, Marie Antoinette had changed everything. With her extravagant furs, elaborate hairstyles and intricate ballgowns, she became the symbol of extravagance in the French monarchy. Weber shows how the young queen used fashion to turn herself into a ‘celebrity’ at Versailles and how her refusal to conform helped bring down the throne. In the summer of Les Miserables, this book has fresh appeal and mixes fashion with one of the greatest historical figures of all time.
Quotable quote: “I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.” Marie Antoinette.
Alexander McQueen: The Life & The Legacy.
There have been many books written about the formidable Lee Alexander McQueen (Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen – is a coffee-table must) but this is the most comprehensive biography to date. His friend and fashion historian, Judith Watt, tells her version of his life and provides an intimate look at the private world of Britian’s most significant fashion designer. She documents his childhood in East London and the building of his fashion empire, through to his tragic suicide in 2010.
Illustrated throughout with McQueen’s personal drawings, never-before published photographs and runway images, the book is as delicious to look at as it is to read. You must not buy this one on Kindle – it’s all about the paper and ink experience.
Quotable quote: “I came to terms with not fitting in a long time ago. I never really fitted in. I don’t want to fit in. And now people are buying into that.” Alexander McQueen.
CLICK TO BUY: Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy by Judith Watt.
Fashion, Genius, & Glorious Excess in 1970’s Paris.
Scandal, drugs, betrayal, glamour… this book tells the story of the rise and fall of Yves Saint Laurent and the rise and rise of the empire of Karl Lagerfeld. Alicia Drake paints incredible (and wonderfully accurate) images of Paris in the 1960’s and 70’s – the world these designers embodied. Peppered with all the intrigues and drama you would expect from fiction, it’s all drug-crazed, lavish parties and genius couture. A riveting insight into two of fashion’s most significant figures.
Quotable quotes: “It pains me physically to see a woman victimized, rendered pathetic, by fashion.” Yves Saint Laurent.
“Forgiveness is too easy. I can forget by indifference, but not forgive. I prefer revenge.” Karl Lagerfeld.
As Fashion Editor of Harper’s Bazaar and later as Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland is arguably the most influential magazine editor of the last century. The book chronicles her childhood in Paris, young womanhood (and first marriage) in England and her publishing tenure in New York City.
Vreeland lived through the Belle Epoque in Paris and Studio 54 and was friends with everyone from Coco Chanel to Jack Nicholson – a fascinating and rarefied life. It’s the history of fashion told with humour and intelligence through the eyes of one of its visionaries. People who don’t care about clothes will still love this book.
Quotable quote: “You gotta have style. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. And I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.” Diana Vreeland.
CLICK TO BUY: D.V. by Diana Vreeland.