Monday, 11 September 2017

my favourite fashion books and what i learnt from them


The downside of studying literature is that I rarely have time to read for pleasure anymore. I had to dedicate most of my summer to reading books for this semester, though I did read The Stranger and Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive at the start of summer.

When I was preparing for the interview for my internship at Vogue, I made the time to read and reread some of my favourite fashion books. I still have a lot to read and I can't wait to have time to read exactly what I want when I have graduated.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life - Justine Picardie. I hold this book largely responsible for the start of my obsession with fashion history. Picardie focuses on how Chanel helped women's liberation more than her association with the Nazis, so it is not the most balanced biography, but she does provide an intriguing overview of Chanel's life. Chanel's life story lends itself to biographies. Abandoned in a convent by her father, her life weaves into a typical rags to riches tale. I would like to read Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy to gain a more thorough understanding of Chanel's collusion with the Nazis, but Picardie's biography inspired and excited 13-year-old me like all the formative books we read around that age do. 

The Teen Vogue Handbook - Teen Vogue. 
I hadn't picked this book up for years until I got my internship. It brings back memories of endlessly revising its pages. I would recommend this guide to career's in fashion to anyone who wants to work in fashion, whether you are a teenager or not. Not only did it help prepare me for interning at Vogue, but it taught me about what editors and stylists actually spend their working days doing. It is filled with invaluable advice from industry insiders and I find it as useful now as I did when I was 13. 

Vogue On: Coco Chanel - Bronwyn Cosgrave. 
I was so excited when this came out because Chanel was still my favourite designer and Vogue my favourite magazine. Seeing Chanel's work through the lens of Vogue, you can see how her work and her life align. I would love to read some of the other books in the Vogue On series as I am sure they give a fascinating insight into the Vogue archives and consequently a look into fashion history overall.


Grace: A Memoir - Grace Coddington. The first time I heard about Grace Coddington was in The September Issue, like many others. In the documentary, I thought she came off as rude, but as I learnt more about her, I knew I had to read her memoir when it came out. I now count Coddington as one of my role models. Her memoir takes the reader through Paris and London in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the fashion set hanging out on the Riviera, and a meeting with Mick Jagger. It is a tale of life with stars offset with poetic insight into these moments. Out of all the books on this list, this one is a must-read. It is full of wonderful quotes, like this one:

“I still weave dreams, finding inspiration wherever I can and looking for romance in the real, not the digital, world” 

It - Alexa Chung.
When I got this book as a Christmas present, I had only ever really admired Alexa Chung for her style. Reading it I learnt that she has similarly great taste in everything else. It is not a particularly original book, but it is witty at times and if you want to discover new films, books and style icons then it is worth reading.

Champagne Supernovas – Maureen Callahan.
I enjoyed reading this a lot. That is possibly because I read it on the beach in Costa Rica last summer, but it reveals a lot about the ‘90s fashion scene. Focusing on the lives and careers of Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs, it is as tragic and moving as it is inspiring. The book is set to be made intoa TV show soon.

Inside Vogue - Alexandra Shulman. It is rare that we get an honest insight into global fashion publications like Vogue. The September Issue and Absolutely Fashion are ultimately controlled by their directors. Inside Vogue, however, comes directly from Shulman herself. This is another book that I read before my internship. I have a lot of issues with this book. It is not greatly written and features transphobic comments about androgynous models. However, it is an insightful read if you want to work in fashion magazines.


Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore - Terry Newman. I was so excited when I heard about this book because it blends my two favourite topics: literature and fashion. Featuring an analysis of the sartorial choices of writers including Arthur Rimbaud, Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath, it is perfect for anyone interested in fashion and/or literature. It shows how fashion is not isolated from the rest of the world and it is especially relevant to all other forms of creativity. 

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of great fashion books. There are so many more I want to read soon. Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations or what you think of the books in this post if you've read them. 

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