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Brush up on style with these 9 timeless fashion books

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to read more books? Do you also like the world of fashion? If so, then fashion books are the way to go. There are several masterpieces that have lived beyond their shelf-life and inspired generations of designers and fashion enthusiasts. Here is our curated edit of must-read fashion books that you need in 2020.

‘The Anatomy of Fashion: Why We Dress the Way We Do’ by Colin McDowell

In this book, pioneering fashion scholar Colin McDowell delves into basic yet complicated questions: How did the 3-piece suit come into being? Why and how have hemlines risen and fallen with time? How has history shaped the way we dress? This book about fashion is unique in its structure and will take you on a journey through its sections named ‘Head to Waist’, ‘Hips to feet’ and so on. Featuring the work of famous designers and labels such as Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Versace, Diesel and more, through 500 illustrations, paintings, and photographs, the book is visually rich as well. 

‘Dior: Moments of Joy’ by Muriel Teodori

must read fashion books

‘Moments of Joy’ is a sojourn through the iconic brand’s history and evolution. It’s a beautiful compilation of stories of Dior’s successes, friendships, and creativity depicted via illustrations, behind the scenes images, and workshops drawn from Dior’s own archives and fashion’s greatest photographers. Author Muriel Teodori offers readers an alternative perspective into the world of Dior by exploring the intellectual and psychological facets of the brand. 

‘The Glass of Fashion’ by Cecil Beaton 

must read fashion books

Beaton’s anecdote of the people who inspired the 40s and 50s fashion is a timeless primer on the history and great moments of fashion. Beaton writes wittily about the influence of legends like Chanel, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, and Dior, as well as some lesser-known people who had a role in shaping his ideas about fashion. Cecil brings in his expert writing and photography, complemented by more than 150 of his own line drawings to compile this book. 

‘How to Dress for Success’ by Edith Head
must read fashion books 

This book is a practical guide on how to dress your best and develop your personal style by OG celebrity stylist Edith Head who dressed Hollywood A-listers including Audrey Hepburn. Head pens recommendations on subjects like dressing to flatter one’s figure, building a wardrobe, judging the quality of fashion items, and dressing properly for any activity. Fashion illustrator Bil Donovan’s stunning re-creations of Head’s most famous looks with Hollywood icons Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and many others further enhance the experience of the book. 

‘The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman’ by Christian Dior

A treasure of timeless tips on everything from what to wear to a wedding to how to tie a scarf to how to walk with grace, this book is an indispensable guide on grooming and developing a personal style. Complete with delightful photographs and drawings from Dior’s glorious career, this book was published for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Golden Age of Couture exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dior’s New Look. 

‘Women in Clothes’ by Sheila Heti

‘Women in Clothes’ features conversations among hundreds of women of all nationalities, religions, ages, backgrounds, and professions on the subject of clothing, and how the clothes we choose for ourselves shape our lives. It started with a survey when editors Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton composed a questionnaire with 50 odd questions designed to instigate women to think more deeply about their personal style. Writers, activists, and artists answered these questions with photographs, interviews, personal testimonies, and illustrations. The book leaves you with the realisation that our clothes play a significant role than just contributing to our appearance. They impact our confidence, reflect the habits of our minds, express our values and political beliefs; they are a language we use to express ourselves. The book is a riveting piece of literature that celebrates imperfection, diversity, and experimentation.

‘Champagne Supernovas’ by Maureen Callahan

With this book, veteran journalist Maureen Callahan takes you back to the 90s, the period that saw the rise of heroin chic, alternative fashion, and artistic and cultural revolutions. ‘Champagne Supernovas’ gives you access to the lives of three rebel geniuses who defined the fashion of the time – Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen. Loaded with the inside scoop from the who’s who of 90s fashion fraternity, this book is a sparkling history of the fashion in that decade. 

‘Culture to Catwalk’ by Kristin Knox

Another brilliant fashion book that delves deep into the annals of history and evolution of clothing. It traces the roots of the fashion industry, studying traditional clothing and street styles from 38 countries and the influence these two very different kinds of dressing styles have on contemporary fashion. It features interviews and quotes from designers Hussein Chalayan, Rei Kawakubo, Sophia Kokosalaki, and many more.

‘The Beautiful Fall’ by Alicia Drake 

‘The Beautiful Fall’ is a tale of war between the mightiest fashion forces of 70s Paris as seen through the eyes of Alicia Drake. The book pivots around the rivalry between Yves Saint Laurent, the iconic traditional Parisian couturier, and Karl Lagerfield, the man known for reinventing fashion. Set against the backdrop of exaggerated glamour, sensational drama, boisterous revelry and ambition that took the hothouse of art, culture, design, and fashion by storm in the 70s, this book talks about their common love interest, their professional trajectories, and ideological differences that shaped the fashion of the decade.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India.  

Monika Sharma
Putting pro in procrastination, Sharma is a textile graduate from NIFT Delhi who  has found her niche in writing and making graphics. When she’s not working, you’ll find her in the hills listening to Jason Mraz.


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