Chances are the fashion lover in your life doesn’t need another pair of shoes, nor another pair of earrings (except these — I do need these). But perhaps she could use some more information about the fashion she loves so much. Don’t we appreciate our things a little more when we know more about their history and creation?
With that in mind, we’ve sorted through all of the notable fashion books that were published in 2013, and come up with a list of the ones we think are most likely to appeal to fashion-minded readers — plus a few favorites published before 2013 that may not be on the shelf.
The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World (2013) by Mary Blume
Balenciaga is a large, well-known fashion house — but far less is known about the man who started it, Cristobal Balenciaga. Born to a widowed Spanish seamstress, the master couturier was nearly as famous for his J.D. Salinger-level reclusiveness as for his designs. In this 209-page volume, Mary Blume, a longtime columnist for the International Herald Tribune tells Balenciaga’s story, largely through the eyes of his first employee, Florette Chelot. It’s a captivating read. Available at Amazon in paperback ($11.31) and hardcover ($17.48).
The Fashionable Mind: Reflections on Fashion 1970-1981 (1981) by Kennedy Fraser
Kennedy Fraser became The New Yorker‘s fashion critic fresh out of Oxford — and did incredibly well with it. This collection of essays explores fashion in a tumultuous decade — the 1970s — a time when American women were, for the first time, choosing what they wanted to wear instead of letting a designer choose for them. Most interesting of all are Fraser’s thoughts on the eternal problems of fashion and shopping and why it’s such an illogical, troublesome matter for so many women. The book is no longer in print, but you can pick up a copy on eBay or on Amazon ($14.99 for Kindle, $15.04 and up for hardcover).
The Asylum: A collage of couture reminiscences… and hysteria (2013) by Simon Doonan
Simon Doonan, Barneys’ creative ambassador at large, has been working in fashion for 30 years — and picked up a few good tales along the way, many of which he recounts in The Asylum, his seventh book. The book is less informational than witty, charming and laugh-out-loud funny — a thoroughly enjoyable adventure through the maddening world that is fashion. Available at Amazon in hardcover ($16.41) and for Kindle ($10.99).
Audrey in Rome (2013) by Luca Dotti, Ludovica Damiani and Sciascia Gambaccini
Those who admire Audrey Hepburn’s style will enjoy this coffee table-worthy book, full of photographs of Hepburn out and about in Rome. Through the snapshots, it’s easy to pick out the keystones of Hepburn’s style: her penchant for upright collars, ballet flats and silk scarves; her lack of jewelry; her habit of carrying wicker baskets. It’s inspiring. Available at Amazon ($22.56).
Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy (2012) by Judith Watt
Judith Watt is both a fashion historian and was a close personal friend of Alexander McQueen — making her the perfect candidate to write a book about him, for which another close friend, Daphne Guinness, wrote the foreword. As Tyler pointed out previously, the book is less a biography than a look at McQueen’s body of work and the things that inspired it, although there’s also a good deal about his career before he entered Central St. Martins and launched his own fashion label. A must-read for any McQueen admirer. Available at Amazon in paperback ($17.03) and hardcover ($24.09). Want more McQueen? Check out Alexander McQueen: Working Process, a coffee table book that contains never-before-published photos of the designer in his studio, available at Amazon ($42.69).
The Beautiful Fall (2007) by Alicia Drake
This book is essential for anyone in (or aspiring to work in) the fashion industry. It’s a highly readable account of the rise and rise of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, two designers whose careers were often in parallel though at the same time so different. If you always wondered what Lagerfeld was like before he was Lagerfeld, this is the book. Available at Amazon in paperback ($20.24) and for Kindle ($8.89).