Never let it be said that fashion fans aren't also intellectuals. Have you ever tried to get through a designer coffee table book? It's not all glossy pictures, my fashionable friends! Well, there are a lot of glossy pictures, but the best fashion books also have engaging and informative text. (That's the stuff that used to fill up the space between advertisements in magazines.) I've scoured recent selections for the best fashion tomes to devour this holiday.
Decades: A Century of Fashion
This is by far my favorite fashion book of the year (and it's been a really good year!). When I first heard that the owner of famed vintage shop Decades in L.A. was writing a book, I wasn't super interested. I like vintage but am not obsessed with it. But when I looked at this book it is so much more than your typical fashion history overview. Silver is honest that he didn't have fashion credentials when he started, but he obviously has given himself an education and is more than qualified to give you one as well. Each decade, beginning with the 1900s, starts with a beautiful, huge (the book is massive) two-page close-up of an intricate fabric or detail. He goes through each era's tastemakers, icons, and designers in a way that's entertaining and easy to read, but through which you unwittingly learn a lot!
Alexander McQueen: The Life and The Legacy
With a foreward by Daphne Guinness, never-before-seen photos from McQueen's personal archives and private collectors, this is the perfect book to satisfy your McQueen cravings whenever you wish you could walk through the fabulous Met exhibit on his work again. Part biography and part fashion story, this book takes you through each of his controversial collections, with input from some of his high profile fans like Lady Gaga and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
This is the obvious companion to the film of the same name currently in limited release. It is a must-have for Vreeland fans and gives an excellent biography for the uninitiated. Where it truly shone, in my opinion, is in reproductions of some of Vreeland's magazine spreads for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. For those of us who didn't get to witness the prolific editor's reign, it's an extra special glimpse into how she became the legend she is today.
Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf Goodman
This book is not just a love letter to Bergdorf Goodman, but to the way shopping used to be as an experience. Albeit an experience reserved for the most elite and spendy. The book is a compilation of stories from everyone from celebrities to store executives to personal shoppers to "regular people" who had extraordinary experiences within the hallowed walls. If a building and an institution could have a biography, this would be it. Very interesting, light read to keep on your bedside table or while away a flight.
Diane Von Furstenberg and the Tale of the Empress's New Clothes
This cheeky, fun little book is perfect for a young fashion fan, but where grown-ups will be drawn in is the fabulous illustrations by Diane Von Furstenberg Studio. If you don't find yourself wanting to color copy one of these pages to hang on your wall, you're not a DVF fan. Morton's schtick is re-imagining classic fairytales to integrate the trajectory of a famous fashion designer.
W: The First 40 Years
This is the mother of all retrospectives of one of the most venerated high fashion magazines we have. John B. Fairchild, Stefano Tonchi, Lynn Hirschberg, Marian McEvoy, and Vince Aletti all contribute to the various sections divided by Who, Where, and Wow. But what the volume (this is another large, weighty book) really celebrates is the photography and fashion in the magazine. The best of the best.
Vogue: The Editor's Eye
To go straight into another magazine retrospective, "Vogue: The Editor's Eye" is another coffee table book with a movie tie-in. So, if you are really lazy, you could just go watch the movie On Demand. But, if you choose the literary route, you can expect a celebration of eight of the magazine’s legendary fashion editors including Polly Mellen, Babs Simpson, and Grace Coddington. Vogue is so highly celebrated and well archived and documented, and the next book on our list — "Grace: A Memoir " — is such a great read, that aside from the beautiful illustrations from the world's best photographers, this book seems a little redundant. But the Vogue fanatic is going to have to have it.
Grace: A Memoir
I have already gone into great detail about this book here, so I don't want to wax poetic on the same themes. But again, a Vogue acolyte is going to want to have this in their library, and any fashion fan would be well served by adding it to their collection.
Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer
Edith Head has been having a moment, and this book seems to be the peak of the celebratory ruminations on the old Hollywood stylists' impressive, prescient career. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Edith Head fan, but I am in the minority by far, so most will likely devour the stories and quotes about her work on films like All About Eve, Funny Face, Sunset Blvd., Rear Window, Sabrina, A Place In the Sun, and The Ten Commandments. There is definitely a lot of set gossip for the classic movie fan, and plenty of fashion pictures for everyone else.
The Style Mentors: Women Who Define the Art of Dressing Today
This book is a clever take on celebrity culture. It takes fashion icons from Isabella Blow to Rihanna and organizes them into categories like The Bohemians, The Minimalists, and The Rockers. It shows examples of each woman's signature style and lists the must-haves of the genre. For instance, Sirens must have cleavage-enhancing undergarments. This will definitely be useful for the stylish woman who likes to take her cues from celebrities or is looking to edit her wardrobe to a certain aesthetic.