With the government advising us to stay inside, now is the perfect time to crack open a few of the must-have fashion books you’ve been eyeing for a while.
Historically, fashion hasn’t always been considered the most intellectual pursuit but if you’re an industry enthusiast, you’d know fashion is more than a parade of pretty dresses on a runway or constant shopping sprees. The clothes we wear play a crucial role in how we view ourselves, how others view us, and how we move through the world every day. The best books about fashion could convince any naysayer that the industry is worth paying attention to while reaffirming the passion of those of us who have long paid attention to its power (and shortcomings).
Whether you’re interested in a designer’s rise to fame, the art of haute couture, or fashion’s environmental impact, there’s a book out there for the taking. Keep reading for our picks for 17 fashion books you absolutely need to read, from historic retellings to hardcovers from your favorite brands that would make for the perfect coffee book additions.
The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior
It might have been written more than 50 years ago but the insights legendary designer Christian Dior presents in this book still hold true today. The pastel pink hardcover advises readers on topics like what to wear to a wedding, what to pack when traveling, and even how to walk with grace. Above all else, it’s a peek into what it means to live life the Dior way.
Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon by Megan Hess
Fashion’s most well-known figure deserves a book that portrays her in style and that’s exactly what Megan Hess does with her illustrated book about Coco Chanel. Hess chronicles 100 of the most influential moments in the designer’s life through historical anecdotes and chic black and white sketch drawings sprinkled throughout with insightful quotes from Chanel herself.
Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas
We know the impact of fast fashion is outrageously high, especially when it comes to climate change. In Fashionopolis, however, author Dana Thomas looks at the other side of the story, showcasing the people and brands working toward a more positive future for the garment industry. She travels the world to speak with fashion’s environmental innovators — from small artisans to big names like Stella McCartney — about the hope that lies in processes like printing 3-D clothes, clean denim manufacturing, fabric recycling, and more.
D.V. by Diana Vreeland
If you’re in the mood to live vicariously through someone else’s life right now, make it Diana Vreeland’s. In her autobiography, the former Vogue editor-in-chief and all-around fashion mainstay takes readers along for a mesmerizing adventure, picking up from England to New York and becoming casual acquaintances with the likes of Queen Mary and Coco Chanel. The only person who can do justice to Vreeland’s life’s story is Vreeland herself, and she recounts it perfectly.
Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City by Emily Spivack
Think of Worn in New York as a spinoff of the popular Humans of New York social media channels, but reimagined to highlight articles of clothing and the memories they hold. In first-person accounts, New Yorkers tell the stories of the clothes that carry meaning for them; like a feather-covered dress worn to the Met Gala and a tank top worn by Andy Warhol’s assistant on a night out.
The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan
When it comes to narrating fashion’s colorful history, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robin Givhan is the woman for the job. In the pages of this book, she transports readers to the international fashion show that took place at the Palace of Versailles in 1973, an event that would go on to change the fashion industry forever. Get ready to devour every last word!
Kate Spade New York: All in Good Taste
Who better to offer advice on tasteful living than our friends at Kate Spade? You’ll be pleased to know that there’s nothing rigid about the wisdom served up by the brand in All in Good Taste. It’s full of personal essays, style tips, recipes, and how-tos that eschew stuffy norms of the past in favor of encouraging individuality. It’s no wonder this little pink book is a New York Times bestseller.
Inside Haute Couture: Behind the Scenes at the Paris Ateliers by Désirée Sadek
If you’re interested in the technicalities and traditions of the fashion industry, Inside Haute Couture is the book you’ve been waiting for. Within its covers, Sadek divulges the inner workings of 10 well-known French ateliers down to the minutest details — from the craftsmanship demonstrated by their staff to the dynamics within exclusive VIP reception rooms.
The Rihanna Book by Rihanna
What better way to immortalize one of pop culture’s style mavens than a massive photo book filled with her best looks? The Rihanna Book consists of 504 pages with over a thousand color images of the multi-talented mogul. With snaps of her most memorable tours, her childhood in Barbados, and her never-ending supply of incredible outfits, this book gives readers a chance to experience the full complexity of Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion by Antwaun Sargent
In 2019, critic and curator Antwaun Sargent gave the world of black art the book it deserves with The New Black Vanguard. Sargent spotlights the ways the global community of black photographers has brought a new wave of inclusivity to fashion, fine art, and popular media, using essays and gorgeous images to address the role of black bodies in global culture through history and to this day.
Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Apfel
Her ascent to fashion superstardom might not have been intentional, but her self-titled book makes it clear that 98-year-old It-girl Iris Apfel was born to be a style icon. Veering from the structure of a traditional memoir, she brings together observations and stories of her life and style with just as much wit as you’d expect. Every page is a colorful new adventure.
Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David
Clothing might have been created as a form of protection but Fashion Victims serves up evidence for all the ways looks really can kill. In the book, Alison Matthews David highlights particular garments that wound up leading to their wearers’ demise, from hats laced with mercury to flammable ball gowns. It’s the best-dressed scary story you’ll ever read.
Camp: Notes on Fashion by Andrew Bolton
Though the 2019 Met Gala theme might have proven elusive for some celebrities, the concept of “camp” has existed for decades as an expression of the intersections between fine art and pop culture. Within the pale pink cover of Camp: Notes on Fashion, the aesthetic is explored through two separate books delving into its history as a creative outlet for the queer community and elucidating its place in high-fashion with photos of some seriously eccentric garments.
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day
With his world-famous store on Harlem’s 125th Street, Daniel R. Day, better known as Dapper Dan, blazed the trail that gave way to the modern high-end streetwear movement. As is often the case for creatives of color, his contributions to high fashion were largely overlooked by industry insiders until Gucci paid homage to one of his original designs in a recent collection, later collaborating with Day on an entire line. Day’s memoir takes readers back to the years before he dressed hip-hop’s biggest stars to tell his remarkable life story.
Fashion Worlds: Contemporary Retail Spaces by Michelle Galindo
There’s an art to properly showcasing garments in retail spaces and online shopping has only ramped up the pressure for brick and mortar clothing stores to put their best foot forward. Fashion Worlds explores the ways stores around the globe successfully display a variety of clothes, from made-to-order couture to streetwear. Its photos offer readers a glimpse into some of the most fashionable storefronts in existence.
Peter Lindbergh: A Different History of Fashion by Thierry-Maxime Loriot
This elegant hardcover from publishing house Taschen tells the story of fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh through pages upon pages of his most revered black and white work. Commentary from his frequent collaborators (including Jean Paul Gaultier, Cindy Crawford, and Anna Wintour) is interspersed throughout, giving Lindbergh’s thought-provoking images an even deeper meaning.
The World of Anna Sui by Tim Blanks
New York-based designer Anna Sui has had her runways graced by supermodels for decades. Everyone from Naomi Campbell to the Hadid sisters has been eager to sport her otherworldly creations. Beyond its eye-catching neon cover, The World of Anna Sui offers a rare glimpse into the designer’s creative process through never-before-seen photos of moodboards, sketches, and garments juxtaposed with iconic shots from Sui’s fashion shows.
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