Fashion

18 fashion books to read for a glamourous escape from reality

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Lara Faye
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Escape with the captivating stories of the iconic designers whose real-life careers are every bit as incredible as their designs. Whether you love a wildly gossipy fashion memoir, an inspirational biography or a thought-provoking tour of fashion history, these are the best fashion books to read now. 

There are some unexpected joys to staying in. For me and my fellow literature junkies, the major perk is finally catching up on our reading. Even when getting lost in a book, fashion is never far from my mind and when I can find a read that offers all the escapism of fiction with all the high-octane glamour of fashion, then I know that I’m in heaven. 

Whether you’ve got a must-read pile large enough to rival Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe collection or are looking to rekindle your love affair with reading, we’ve found the unmissable books that offer serious sartorial interest. 

Take a wild ride through the dizzying lives of the maverick designers that defined 90s fashion or discover the true story of the entrepreneur who grew her eBay store into a multi-million dollar fashion powerhouse with the wilder-than-fiction true stories behind some of the biggest names in fashion.  Lose yourself in the unique memoir of the woman responsible for the Queen’s every sartorial move or let your eyes widen as you uncover the truth our fast-fashion addiction. 

Consider this a style makeover for your bookshelf. We’ve curated a capsule collection of a the best fashion books and biographies to escape in. 

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  • Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography - Meryle Secrest

    The original style superstar, Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli is rivalled only by Coco Chanel as the most iconic female designer of the 20th century. From her collaborations with Salvador Dalí on her iconic Lobster Dress to her provocative collections, Elsa Schiaparelli’s autobiography is a raucous celebration of the free-thinking fashion powerhouse that was decades ahead of her time. 

  • Clothes, Music, Boys - Viv Albertine

    A rock autobiography that is as infatuated with style as it is with punk, rebellion and raw real life, Clothes Music Boys is a thrilling ride through punk rock goddess Viv Albertine’s rise to fame as the guitarist in the hugely influential all-girl band the Slits. Expect a who’s who of punk royalty, close-up encounters with Vivienne Westwood and one of the freshest and most exciting perspectives on alternative style that you’ll ever read. 

  • Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

    If you missed fashion photographer Tim Walker’s sell-out exhibition at the V&A, the gorgeous accompanying hard-cover book is just as evocative. A gem to be savoured again and again, this collection of 100 mesmerising photographs is best served with a coffee, a comfortable chair and a long, uninterrupted afternoon. 

  • Champagne Supernovas - Maureen Callahan

    Buckle up and steady yourself for a wild ride through the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of the world of 90s fashion. Focusing on the lives of Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss, Champagne Supernovas is a provocative, access-all-areas exploration of the game changes who broke all the rules, and remade the fashion industry as we know it. Cancel that Virtual Pub night, this gripping book is one you won’t want to put down. 

  • Grace: A Memoir - Grace Coddington

    You may recognise flame-haired creative director Grace Coddington from the hit fashion documentary The September Issue, but her fashion legacy goes far beyond  what we saw on screen. Getting her big break as the winner of a Vogue model competition in 1958, Grace’s career as creative director has seen her create some of the most iconic fashion images out there. The real-life stories behind the photos, not to mention Grace’s more-fabulous-than-fiction personal life will stay with you long after the last page has been turned. 

  • Fashion Climbing: A New York Life - Bill Cunningham

    There are few fashion photographers more legendary than Bill Cunningham. His infectious love for his twin flames – fashion and New York – are palpable on every page, making this glittering jewel of a book one of the most addictive reads you’ll encounter. 

  • Advanced Style - Ari Seth Cohen

    They say that fashion fades but style is eternal, and fashion photographer Ari Seth Cohen has the proof. Inspired by his eternally chic grandmother, Cohen set out on a project to celebrate the phenomenally stylish, trend-defying senior women who are typically overlooked by the fashion industry. Interviewing and photographing women in their 60s, 70, 80s and 90s, Cohen presents a masterclass in  style without an age limit. 

  • The Other Side of the Coin - Angela Kelly

    The Queen’s iconic pastel suits, perfectly coordinated umbrellas and dedication to a standout hat have set a new standard for diplomatic dressing, and the woman behind it all is Angela Kelly who has served as personal dresser to the Queen since 2002. Though Royal Servants are usually prohibited from talking about their experiences in the household, the Queen herself personally gave Angela her blessing to write this book, and we’re forever grateful she did. This memoir is an unforgettable, unique portrait of the Queen as you’ve never seen her before. 

  • Wardrobe Crisis - Clare Press

    Sustainability is one of the biggest talking points in the world of fashion, and delving into the shocking reality behind our clothes is fashion writer Clare Press. Asking the simple question “who makes our clothes”, though Clare is no stranger to a shopping haul, she leaves no stone unturned as she unflinchingly uncovers the truth behind our fast fashion addiction. Examining everything from the conditions our clothes are made in, to the state of the seeds from which our cotton is grown, though the truths on every page may be hard to swallow, this book is nothing less than essential reading. 

  • It - Alexa Chung

    Alexa Chung is the fashion icon whose style never falters. If you’ve fallen back in love with her look since binge watching Next in Fashion then now is the perfect time to delve into her memoir It. A collection of her writings, photographs and doodles, this deeply personal book feels more like a hybrid between a Tumblr account and a teenage diary stashed under a mattress than an autobiography. 

  • Stitches in Time - Lucy Adlington

    Indulge your inner history lover with this journey into the untold stories of the clothes we wear. If you have ever given a passing thought into the how and why of the clothes we wear, you will be totally absorbed by this stylish, fact-filled tour of fashion history, starting with Queen Elizabeth I’s underwear drawer, this is a unique insight into the extraordinary history behind our most ordinary possessions. 

  • #Girlboss - Sophia Amoruso

    Sophia Amoruso’s transformation from dumpster-diving teenager to self-made multi-millionaire fashion mogul might sound stranger than fiction, but this true story is testament to the power of what a fearless woman can achieve using nothing but her own determination. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or simply want to be inspired by the words of a wisdom from a woman who knows no obstacles, #Girlboss shoukd be required reading for every woman. 

  • Diana Vreeland: Empress of Fashion - Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

    Iconic fashion editor Dianna Vreeland is the stuff of fashion legend. Charting the life of the innovative editor who created the world of fashion as we know it today, this biography is not just the story of one fashion editor but the history of the entire industry. 

  • Women in Clothes - Sheila Heti

    Sheila Heti’s Women in Clothes is quite simply unlike anything else you’ve ever read before. Exploring the complexity of women’s style decisions, and celebrating the women who bring designs to life by wearing them, this book is a conversation among hundreds of women of all backgrounds about one subject – clothes. Prompting women to think more deeply about their personal style, this unmissable book includes interviews with Cindy Sherman, Tavi Gevinson, Miranda July, Roxane Gay, all in pursuit of uncovering the true meaning behind the clothes we wear. 

  • Perfume: A Century of Scents - Lizzie Ostrom

    You can’t have a true conversation about style without acknowledging the power of fragrance. Perfumes, alongside handbags, are the key offering of any fashion house, and this addictive read tells the incredible stories of 100 perfumes from a whole century of scents. Dubbed “the Heston Blumenthal of perfume” Lizzie Ostrom’s adventure into the wonderful world of fragrance is completely enthralling. 

  • A Dedicated Follower of Fashion - Holly Brubach

    Searching for a true fashion throwback? This forgotten gem of fashion writing long overdue a revival. A collection of 28 incisive essays by noted critic and ‘fashion anthropologist’ Holly Brubach, this anthology of her writing span the 1980s and 90s, taking  some of the most iconic moments in fashion – from the Chanel suit to Gianni Versace designer sunglasses – in their stride. 

  • The World According to Karl: The Wit and Wisdom of Karl Lagerfeld

    Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion legacy is one that will never fade, and though a year has passed since his death, his mark on the fashion industry can be felt more keenly now than ever. Celebrate the life and creative genius of one of the most iconic designers who has ever lived with this elegantly curated collection of Karl’s quotes and sartorial wisdom. 

  • Bringing Home the Birkin - Michael Tonello

    If you’re feeling nostalgic for 00s style, then settle in for some serious escapism as Michael Tonello lays bare his life as a Birkin bag dealer. Recounting his far-flung, glamorous adventures  in hot pursuit of the world’s most coveted handbag, this wildly gossipy memoir is every bit as sensational as a real-life Birkin bag. 

Images courtesy of Getty & publishers.