It’s, give or take a few shopping days, a month to Christmas, so I thought I’d share my top ten fashion books for people who want to start building their own fashion bookshelf. I’m by no means an expert, but I was very flattered to be asked to write this article for my old college newspaper. Good times…
Buy them, borrow them, steal them (but maybe send the author a donation if you do that) – just read them. This is part one – part two to come soon.
1- Fashion is about self expression, so I recommend The Cheap Date Guide to Style by superstylists Kira Joliffe and Bay Garnett. In this slim, colourful volume you’ll find lists of wardrobe staples, endless sources of inspiration and interviews with luminaries like Karl Lagerfeld and the late, great Isabella Blow. It’s prescriptive, but not preachy. The focus is on your individual sense of style and all the different ways you can experiment and stand out (without looking like a hobo/Hilton).
2 – Honourable mention goes to Luella’s Guide to English Style, which is a prettily packaged and illustrated tour through designer Luella Bartley’s fashion sensibilities. Yes, I know it’s a guide to ENGLISH style but they’ve got Chung and who do we have? Rosanna Davidson and that girl from the Lotto ad wearing a Kilkenny strip string bikini.
3 – ‘Pictures’ by Tim Walker. Noted for never digitally altering his photos, models are turned into candy-coloured lifesize dolls in playhouses just with props and make up – surreal, sometimes disturbing, always beautiful.
4 – ‘Avedon Fashion’ is a retrospective of Richard Avedon’s work for various fashion magazine spanning over fifty years. The photos, almost all in black and white, are romantic and dramatic. If, after a will-to-live-draining evening you should need a dab of glamour, then this is the book for you.
5 - ‘Anna Piaggi’s Fashion Algebra’ is out of print, but it’s well worth scouring for a cheap copy online. Piaggi is the genius behind Vogue Italia’s batshit crazy double page spreads, of which this book is a compendium. Proof that magazines will never die as long as there are creative people around to keep them special.
6 – I know it’s all about The Sartorialist at the moment but his book isn’t the best. The photos have dated a tiny bit and in the interim between publishing it and now, Scott Schuman has become a much more accomplished photographer with a sharper style eye. If you want great street style, go to his website. Otherwise, pick up the Facehunter book, which is miles better.
7 – If you pick out your friends outfits and think you could transfer those skills into real life, then read ‘Mastering Fashion Styling’ by Jo Dingemans. Not a word of a lie – this is THE book to read if you want to be a stylist (or just more stylish) and you don’t know where to start.8 – In the 1950’s Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent were friends. Twenty years later, they were verbally beating the tar out of each other in a nicotine and cocaine-stained discotastic Paris. This tale of power, fame and total bitchery is told in ‘The Beautiful Fall’ by Alicia Drake. Few pictures in this one unfortunately, but Uncle Karl’s antics are amusing enough to keep anyone occupied.
9 -‘Celia Birtwell‘ by Celia Birtwell and Dominic Lutyens. I’ve posted about this only recently but it really is such a lovely book to have. Written and presented in a scrapbook style, this book would be a lovely gift for lovers of vintage or pretty patterns. Celia Birtwell is an unsung fashion legend.
10 – This is a tricksy one because I haven’t read it yet (thank you Abrams UK press office for not replying to any of my emails) but Diana Vreeland – The Eye has to Travel looks like it’s going to be a good ‘un. Made up of quotes, reminisces and seminal magazine spreads commissioned by Vreeland in her tenure as an editor for Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, the previews I’ve seen are gorgeous and a real testament to a fashion visionary.
Post originally printed in the UCC Express. This version with additions.