10 Must-read books about fashion

Jenessa Williams

Who says fashion and literature don't collide? We've picked our favourite fashion books that show off the secrets of the style world

Fashion has come a long way from its early stereotype of vapid frivolity, and with more of us taking up book clubs and buying kindles than ever before, reading about fashion allows for the ultimate self-care—an escape into a world of glitz, glamour and lavish wardrobes that tells us far more about society than we might initially believe.

Whether you’re looking to learn more about sustainability or imagine yourself as a media mogul at the head of a world-renowned magazine, here are ten fashionable reads worth popping on your Good Reads list…

 

1. Fashion Climbing, by Bill Cunningham

fashion climbing

One of the most celebrated designers of the 1950’s Bill Cunningham aka “William J” overcame some serious hardship to become the legend he’s known as today.

Join him through times good and bad in Fashion Climbing, deeply indebted to his love of New York and passion for continuing his career in fashion regardless of the ever-changing nature of the industry. Heartfelt and witty, even those who couldn’t care less about clothes can find something to relate to here.

 

2. The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline

conscious closet

As the pressure to save the planet ramps up, it’s important to turn the conversation to our wardrobes.

Stockpiling endless printed books on sustainability seems somewhat counter-intuitive, but The Conscious Closet is easily the best of the lot, offering practical advice without slipping into preachy-ness, it exposes the true cost of fast fashion and encourages the reader to think twice about reckless purchasing, drawing deeply on Cline’s own experiences.

Create your own change with her advice, and then pass on to a friend to do the same—nothing beats a recycled read! 

 

3. The Glossy Years by Nicholas Coleridge

the glossy years

When you’ve been at the helm of one of the world’s largest magazine publishers for over 30 years, there’s very little that could shock or surprise you.

Luckily for us readers, Nicholas Coleridge is here to bare all in his expose of glossy fashion magazines, tracking right from the 1970s to the present day.

Humorous and positively sagging with namedrops, it’s a memoir in the finest sense, offering true insight into the way we all consume and obsess over the sparkling elite. 

 

4. How To Dress: Secret Styling Tips From A Fashion Insider by Alexandra Fullerton

how to dress

Former fashion editor at Stylist magazine and a contributor to Glamour, Grazia, Harpers Bazaar and more, Alexandra Fullerton certainly knows a thing or two about getting dressed.

Illustrated beautifully by Bijou Karman, this book allows you to dip easily in and out of her easy-to-follow advice, helping you carve out a signature style, shop more effectively and even wash and store your clothes to maximise their full potential.

Best of all, it pairs wonderfully with another recent release from Pavillion books, Sophie Beresiner and Lisa Potter-Dixon’s Back Chat Beauty, which offers some great advice on colour theory and essential make-up products. There’ll never be another excuse not to look your very best…

 

5. What We Wore: A People’s History Of British Style by Nina Manandhar

how to dress

For readers who love to immerse themselves in nostalgia, it doesn’t come much better than Nina Manandhar’s anthology of British street style from the 1950s onwards.

Exploring subcultures with a keen understanding of the intersections of race, gender, class and social identity, the book is crowdsourced from amateur family photo albums, giving it a wonderfully personal feel. Whether you were a mod or a rocker, a teddy boy or a Day-Glo raver, you’ll likely find something of yourself within its pages. 

 

6. The New Fashion Rules by Victoria Magrath

One of the UK’s most successful fashion bloggers, Victoria McGrath has used her platform as InTheFrow to demonstrate the ever-growing value of influencer culture on fashion and new media.

Her friendly, accessible tone is backed up with some serious knowledge—her PhD in fashion marketing allows her to explore just how far fashion has come in recent decades, discussing everything from virtual reality shopping to body positivity while offering up a whistle stop tour of fashion’s 21st century history.

The New Fashion Rules would make a great gift for a younger fashionista in the family, but there’s plenty for older readers to enjoy too.

 

7. The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake

Partial to a bit of soap drama? You’ll likely love The Beautiful Fall, a warts-and-all retelling of the volatile friendship between Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1950s Paris.

Expect glamour, excess and endless rivalry, perfectly capturing the decadent spirit of the era.

 

8. 50 Fashion Designers You Should Know by Simone Werle

50 fashion designers

Newly updated for 2019, this book does exactly what it says on the cover—introduces you to the most creative, ambitious and technically influential names in fashion history, paired with elegant photography that highlights their most iconic looks.

A perfect coffee table gift for somebody interested in fashion history (or indeed just in beautiful imagery), this makes for a great starter guide that will help you decipher your Dior from your De La Renta. 

 

9. Inside Vogue by Alexandra Schulman

The precursor to her much-anticipated 2020 memoir, Inside Vogue is an enduringly successful tome for a reason. Capturing a full diary year at the helm of British Vogue, it demonstrates the pressures and power of being a fashion editor in brutal detail, making you wince and giggle with equal frequency.

It’s no surprise that Schulman’s turn of phrase has led her to write novels since stepping away from her editorship—The Parrots is a great piece of extra fashion reading for fiction fans. 

 

10. Advanced Love by Ari Seth Cohen

The photographic blog series that made stars of Iris Apfel and Linda Rodin, the Advanced Style brand has grown and grown over the past decade, demonstrating that real beauty is truly ageless.

His third and most recent compendium, Advanced Love sees Ari Seth Cohen picturing couples from all walks of life, making a political statement about our dismissal of romance and sexuality within the 0ver-40 age set.

The perfect festive gift for your special other-half, or a treat-to-self as a constant reminder that love never goes out of style. 


Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter