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Fashion can tell powerful stories. Anyone who’s seen The Devil Wears Prada and memorized Miranda Priestly’s iconic cerulean blue monologue knows that clothes aren’t just strips of fabric; they’re tools of alchemy, malleable pieces of living history. For Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue and the magazine’s European editorial director, fashion is a sacred language learned through equal parts struggle and dazzling triumph.

In Enninful’s debut memoir, A Visible Man, the creative juggernaut peels back the onion-skin layers of his meteoric rise to international success. Born in the port city of Takoradi in Ghana, Enninful immigrated to the United Kingdom with his family in the 1980s. They settled in Ladbroke Grove, London, where 13-year-old Enninful began to cultivate his innate sense of personal style and a budding fluency in the visual arts.

Enninful’s ascension into the upper echelons of fashion is practically a modern fairy tale. The men’s fashion director at the British magazine i-D recruited 16-year-old Enninful for modeling after a chance meeting on the Tube. At 18, Enninful became the youngest person at any international fashion publication to hold the role of fashion director. It was a monumental opportunity that was promptly followed by parental disapproval. Enninful’s father, who had assumed his son was an obedient follower of African cultural traditions, kicked his son out of the house. In response, Enninful dove headfirst into the hustle and grind of i-D, propelled by his unquenchable thirst for all things beauty and glamor.

In many ways, Enninful’s crash course in style education at i-D paved the way like a yellow brick road. In 2014, he was awarded the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Creator award. In 2016, he was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to diversity in fashion. By 2017, Enninful had earned the crown jewel of his impressive resume: He was appointed the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue.

However, these soaring highs often competed with disheartening lows, such as the death of his beloved mother, a series of major surgeries to correct exacerbated eyesight problems and his field’s persistent racism. The fashion industry is founded on aspirational whiteness and shaped by arbitrary exclusivity; marginalized identities are nonexistent at worst and tokenized at best. Enninful, as a gay, working-class, Ghanaian British immigrant, doesn’t depict himself as a victim of these realities in A Visible Man, but he doesn’t deny or sanitize the industry’s institutional racism or the challenges of fighting for inclusivity.

Fashionistas and Vogue disciples will revel in this inside look at the fashion world and appreciate the author’s frank anecdotes about familiar members of the glitterati, but anyone who reads Enninful’s memoir will understand the importance of his professional and personal trajectory. A Visible Man is the culmination of blood, sweat, tears and limitless imagination.

Fashionistas and Vogue disciples will revel in Edward Enninful's memoir: a culmination of blood, sweat, tears and limitless imagination.
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The holidays always bring a crop of sumptuous books about fashion and décor. And in a time when many are taking stock of what they have and where they’ve come from, designers too are looking back at history for grounding and inspiration.

HAMPTON GETAWAY
The daughter of design legend Mark Hampton, Alexa Hampton comes naturally to her trade, and her interior designs speak to the history that’s clearly been instilled in her. The Language of Interior Design is the younger Hampton’s first book, and it succeeds as both a window into the stunning residences she revamps and a practical guide to the elements of good design.

Organized by four governing aesthetic principles—contrast, proportion, color and balance—this elegant tome takes readers through 18 impressive residences from Hampton’s portfolio, including a landmark New York pied-à-terre, a palatial Tudor home and a tucked-away Queen Anne summer cottage. Hampton explains that a client’s style and needs must be honored, but at the same time shows how she brings her own flair to all her projects—from her use of grouped furniture as a way to balance large spaces, to her untraditional combination of French, Moroccan and Swedish influences in one beach-side living room.

The lessons learned are applicable to even modest homesteads, and the sheer beauty of Hampton’s work is impossible to ignore.

HEAD FIRST
Anyone familiar with American film history is no doubt familiar—at least by sight—with the work of Edith Head. Known for her Dutch-boy haircut and trademark sunglasses, Head was one of Hollywood’s leading and most influential costume designers, as well as a pioneering woman in a man’s industry. She worked on more than 400 films, including Double Indemnity and The Birds, and ultimately received more Academy Awards than any woman in history.

But her story is fascinating beyond the Grace Kelly ball gowns and Dorothy Lamour sarong, as Jay Jorgensen shows in his biography-cum-coffee table book, Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer. Jorgensen’s scrupulously researched and handsomely assembled work follows Head from her humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada, through her unparalleled success and struggles with industry politics, and up to her final years and ensuing legacy. Filled with pithy anecdotes and never-before-seen sketches, Edith Head is the book for the costume design enthusiast.

THE WAY SHE IS
Barbra Streisand is undoubtedly an entertainment icon. But who knew she was a home designer as well?

Babs’ first foray into the world of writing, My Passion for Design, is a refreshing counterpoint to the celebrity tell-alls and workout regimens that litter bookstore discount bins. Instead, Streisand treats readers to her philosophy on architecture and construction as it pertains to her most recent Malibu homes, along with 350 vibrant photographs of these modern-day refuges. Her taste is both refined and lively (glimpses of her ravishing gardens are enough to make even the most green-thumbed jealous) and her look takes its cues from American design of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Word has it that Streisand initially set out to write a more traditional memoir, but early in the process realized that her living spaces were the true portals to her life. My Passion for Design provides access to these portals, and lets fans see a new side of the woman behind the persona.

IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD
In the past year, there’s been a crop of books related to the Emmy-winning TV series “Mad Men,” from entertaining guides to ad industry tell-alls. So it was only a matter of time before the show’s impeccable 1960s clothing got the publishing treatment.

The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men by Janie Bryant, costume designer for the acclaimed program, takes fans and costume enthusiasts inside the show’s design process, while at the same time showing every woman how to channel her inner Joan, Betty or Peggy.

As one might expect, there are plenty of examples of how Bryant styles her now-iconic women (pastels and blues for icy Betty, small patterns for naïve and hopeful Trudy). But there’s also useful advice for readers looking to bring the sophistication and femininity of “Mad Men” to a more modern look. For instance, Bryant recommends that all women get acquainted with their body type before hitting the stores. “You can conveniently forget your age, but you had better be clear on your bust size,” she warns. Likewise, she explains how to use undergarments and shapewear to one’s advantage, creating the figure that will work best with your wardrobe.

There’s even a section on how to style your man, so you can make him Don Draper-dapper—if, hopefully, a little less of a cad.

LESS IS MORE
Even runway aficionados often take Minimalist style for granted, reducing the easily recognizable looks of Balenciaga and Jil Sander to “classic” or “simple.” But the truth is, this mainstream aesthetic owes everything to the rich history of Minimalist design as it pertains to both high art and high fashion.

Parsons professor and fashion historian Elyssa Dimant’s weighty-but-approachable new volume, Minimalism and Fashion: Reduction in the Postmodern Era, traces the evolving genre—from its roots in 1960s art and architecture up through contemporary concepts of neo-minimalism and the 21st-century machine.

Organized chronologically and featuring 150 breathtaking images, Minimalism and Fashion examines the work of many fashion greats—Coco Chanel, Issey Miyake, Alexander McQueen, Miuccia Prada—as both products of their time and ambassadors for the style that has been at the design forefront for more than half a decade. And at every turn, Dimant compares trends in the world of clothing with those in the world of art—Sol LeWitt’s sculptural cube opposite Helmut Lang’s 2003 Spring/Summer collection, Calvin Klein’s streamlined, androgynous wardrobe in dialogue with 1980s and ’90s postminimalist feminist work.

“Minimalism is about moving forward without nostalgia,” boasts Francisco Costa’s appropriately restrained foreword. True though that may be, we’re glad that Dimant took the time to look back.

The holidays always bring a crop of sumptuous books about fashion and décor. And in a time when many are taking stock of what they have and where they’ve come from, designers too are looking back at history for grounding and inspiration. HAMPTON GETAWAY The daughter of design legend Mark Hampton, Alexa Hampton comes naturally […]

When the going gets tough, the tough make jokes. We’re in a recession, getting older, and the Earth is melting, but there’s humor to be had. (No, really!) This quartet of books puts a humorous spin on what it’s like to be us. Go forth and laugh!

FABLES WITH A TWIST
Oh, animals. They can be so cute and sweet. Except when they’re behaving like jerks or committing acts of violence. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, a collection of 16 twisted tales masterfully illustrated by Ian Falconer (of Olivia fame), will be literary catnip for readers who’ve speculated on what pets or wild creatures are really thinking. In David Sedaris’ world, our anthropomorphized furry and feathered friends can be thoughtful, kind, annoying or depraved; it depends on the individual. Fans of the author and radio commentator’s previous books likely will be split between those who love this wild escalation of Sedaris’ dark side and those who can’t abide stories with shocking, unhappy endings. But it’s a jungle out there, and Squirrel spares neither personality foible nor distasteful aspect of human nature or the animal kingdom (a parasite that prefers hippopotamus anuses comes to mind). This collection is a dark-humor lover’s delight that raises the question: What will Sedaris do next?

HUMANS WERE HERE
It’s been six years since Jon Stewart and his team published America (The Book), but they haven’t been idle—they’ve been working on an even more ambitious project. You see, when humans become extinct and the Earth is colonized by aliens, the new residents probably will have lots of questions about what came before. With that in mind, they created Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race, an extremely detailed reference book about what we’ve left behind, how we lived and likely reasons we’re not around anymore (pandemic? nuclear holocaust? robot rebellion?). This hilarious-yet-rueful tome—all written in the past tense, of course—covers everything from government to fashion, natural disasters to advertising. Illustrations, charts, photos and collages add to the satiric fun, though a faux nude photo of Larry King might seem un-fun to some. There’s a helpful suggestion-cum-plea for the aliens, too: that they reanimate us from DNA so we can together “give this planet the kind of caretakers it deserves.” It’s a poignant end to a funny, smart book.

NEW (PREPPY) GENERATION
It’s generally true, to be sure, that a lot has changed in the last 30 years. In the land of prep, this is the most shocking change of all: “Preppies in the 21st century all wear the unnatural fibers we collectively refer to as ‘fleece.’ ” If Lisa Birnbach says it, we know it’s true; 30 years ago, she wrote The Official Preppy Handbook and revealed the secret code of the natural-fibers set. Now she and designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd have issued True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World, a guidebook for prepsters not sure what Muffy would do in the face of reality TV, Facebook and the Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff scandals, to name just a few. This copiously illustrated manual offers reassurance and guidance aplenty, via advice for hiring staff (say “chef,” not “cook”), fashion rules (“Nose rings are never preppy”), a map of “Gay and Lesbian Prep America” and loads more. The creators’ cleverness is nicely tempered by their fondness for the tribe, and those who take the book seriously will be more than ready to achieve maximum preppiness. Whether you adore or eschew pastel and penny loafers, True Prep is a delight.

I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY BRAIN
Nora Ephron has met Cary Grant and Dorothy Parker, but remembers nothing about them. She was at “The Ed Sullivan Show” the night the Beatles performed, and only recalls the obnoxious fans. As she muses in I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, “On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can?” But, as with 2006’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, what she does remember is fascinating, entertaining and a lovely contemplation of what it’s like to grow older, every single year. The accomplished screenwriter (Julie and Julia, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, among others) writes about her love for journalism and New York City, and her sadness upon learning her beloved Teflon emits poisonous gases. She holds forth on the vagaries of email, and shares what it’s like to have a favorite play flop. Throughout the book, the touching sits alongside the funny; essays like “The O Word,” in which she muses on what it’s like to realize she is old, will hit home with anyone who’s wondered if they’ve made the most of life. And who hasn’t?
 

When the going gets tough, the tough make jokes. We’re in a recession, getting older, and the Earth is melting, but there’s humor to be had. (No, really!) This quartet of books puts a humorous spin on what it’s like to be us. Go forth and laugh! FABLES WITH A TWIST Oh, animals. They can […]
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Fashionable friends are the toughest to shop for. You wouldn’t dare buy them clothing and, anyway, their closets are already jam-packed. Luckily several chic new style books by both big-name connoisseurs and under-the-radar experts have recently hit the bookshelves—all great for gifting to the fashionistas in your life. From the glossy and gorgeous to the text-driven and probing, here are six of the best.

THE TRENDSETTERS

Katharine Hepburn. Jackie Kennedy. Madonna. You know a style maven when you see one. And yet, their particular breed of je ne sais quoi is often difficult to pin down. Luckily, fashion historian and Parsons professor Elyssa Dimant has done the work for us in The Style Mentors: Women Who Define the Art of Dressing Today.

Breaking down these trend­setters into eight signature looks, Dimant explains how the most stylish women approach their wardrobes and how burgeoning fashionistas can achieve similar success. From the icons (Coco Chanel, Cate Blanchett) to the mavericks (Isabella Blow, Daphne Guinness), bohemians (Veruschka, the Olsen twins), gamines (Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy), sirens (Marilyn Monroe, Beyoncé), minimalists (Donna Karan, Sofia Coppola), rockers (Debbie Harry, Gwen Stefani) and classicists (Wallis Simpson, Michelle Obama), The Style Mentors outlines the world’s greatest fashion role models, alongside lovely, illustrative photographs.

In addition to the eye candy, Dimant’s book proves exceedingly useful. Learn why a bohemian never wears flats and how Dita Von Teese tailors vintage clothing to fit her famous curves.

AGE-OLD TRENDS

As anyone who has ever worn a cloche or coveted a bustle knows, fashion is as much about looking backward as it is about envisioning the future. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style acknowledges this centuries-old journey, tracing some 3,000 years of high couture and humble duds—from the draped fabrics of ancient times through contemporary street style.

Moving both chronologically and geographically through the ages, this stunning coffee table book —penned by Smithsonian consultant and Cooper-Hewitt curator Susan Brown—looks in on such clothing moments as Etruscan dancing garb, Flemish squirrel-skin kirtles and 17th-century baroque doublets.

Somewhere between history lesson and fashion spread, Fashion is particularly adept at capturing the ways in which Western style was greatly influenced by design from around the world.

VOGUE'S HEAVY HITTERS

This fall marks the 120th anniversary of Vogue. In appropriately lavish celebration, the world’s most iconic couture magazine is releasing a glamorous new volume chronicling the publication’s history as seen through the eyes of eight of its most memorable editors.

Told via in-depth interviews with each of these visionaries, Vogue: The Editor’s Eye gives a glimpse into the process, proving that the magazine’s cutting-edge fashion spreads are as much about editorial point of view as they are about model-photographer-designer collaboration.

Here, readers learn about Babs Simpson (fashion editor, 1947-1972), who traveled to Cuba to shoot Ernest Hemingway; Jade Hobson (1971-1988), an advocate for flattering power suits and the liberated career woman; and Phyllis Posnick (1987-present) who took a conceptual, provocative approach to the fashion narrative.

Alongside these stories are iconic photos from Vogue’s own pages (from heavy hitters like Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz) as well as wonderfully telling behind-the-scenes shots. An introduction by Anna Wintour adds an extra air of backstage insight.

WARDROBE MAKEOVERS

As the co-host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” stylist Stacy London is a pro at helping regular women ditch frumpy sweaters and dated jeans to dress properly for their lifestyles and body types. Her new book, The Truth About Style, follows in this empowering makeover tradition (or what London calls “a startover”) while also incorporating the writer’s own history of self-doubt and renewal.

London’s struggle is all too familiar: When she graduated from Vassar at the age of 22, she weighed only 90 pounds, having devoted her senior year to both academics and anorexia. This battle with her weight stretched into adulthood, and it was only through her work helping women look their best that she learned to love herself.

In The Truth About Style, London interweaves her own story with those of nine women desperately in need of a style startover—from a post-mastectomy cancer survivor to a busy mom who hasn’t bought new clothes in seven years. Working with each to construct a new wardrobe (and life) outlook, London deftly shows that the way we present ourselves influences the way we feel.

TIM GUNN'S TUTORIAL

What Stacy London is to the style-impaired, Tim Gunn is to aspiring designers, having served for 12 seasons as the ultimate mentor on the hit reality show “Project Runway.” In Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet, the coolly collected clothing authority goes beyond styling advice (or pleas to “make it work”) to tell the quirky and often downright strange histories of just about every article of clothing or accessory ever worn.

Readers are treated to factoids like how a man’s politics used to inform his necktie choice, why there was once historical concern with making pants difficult to remove and what the connection was between World War II prudence and the rise of the bikini (hint: It involves fabric rationing).

With the same dry humor and anecdotal joy Gunn fans have long admired, his Fashion Bible proves both a useful reference book and a fun read.

20TH-CENTURY STYLE

Cameron Silver began his career in the theater, and it’s easy to see how this flair for drama informed his work at Decades, the L.A. vintage boutique he opened in 1997.

Decades: A Century of Fashion is Silver’s gorgeous, oversized love letter to the style eras that comprise his collection. Beginning with the Edwardian hats and John Singer Sargent silhouettes of the turn of the 20th century, and moving through 1990s Kate Moss cool and deconstructed minimalism, Decades explores the designers, models and overarching looks that defined each period.

At every point in history, Silver is careful to detail conflicting aesthetics, concluding that fashion is always about dichotomy. Take, for instance, the 1970s’ simultaneous attention to sporty all-Americanism (Cheryl Tiegs) and disco danger (Bianca Jagger), or the complicated crossover between Grace Kelly’s and Bettie Page’s mid-century appeal.

Silver attributes a different “it designer” to every decade, but perhaps more emblematic of the times are the photo plates he inserts between chapters—pictures of gowns taken at extreme close-up, such that the material, stitching and color come into vibrant, telling view.

Fashionable friends are the toughest to shop for. You wouldn’t dare buy them clothing and, anyway, their closets are already jam-packed. Luckily several chic new style books by both big-name connoisseurs and under-the-radar experts have recently hit the bookshelves—all great for gifting to the fashionistas in your life. From the glossy and gorgeous to the […]
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“High priestess of fashion” Diana Vreeland may have transformed Vogue into the bible of contemporary American style, but she is also known for her way with words. In Diana Vreeland Memos, Vreeland’s grandson Alexander has collected more than 250 memos and letters from her nine years as Vogue editor-in-chief to reveal the woman through her own voice. Nine chapters focus on Vreeland’s strengths and passions, from her management style to her vision of the future. Each chapter opens with notes from Vogue editors who worked with Vreeland, and images from Vogue complement the text. There is humor here, as in one particularly concerned note: “The sticky situation with fringe is, of course, extremely serious.” There is poetry as well, as in a short memo on the world’s “hidden anger,” manifesting itself on our skin and in our hearts. Who would have thought that glorified Post-Its would be this interesting? Memos is surprisingly appealing as an intimate look into the frivolity, vision and creativity of Vreeland’s Vogue.

NOT SUGAR AND SPICE

From the “shiny happy ladies” of Jezebel.com comes The Book of Jezebel, an encyclopedic guide to “lady things,” providing insightful and hilarious commentary on pop culture, politics, history and just about everything relating to women. This A-to-Z compendium of feminist “fact and opinion” contains more than a thousand entries ranging from abortion rights to zits, and is accompanied by funny, often shameless photographs and illustrations. There are also full-page taxonomies of nice guys and famous spinsters, the Periodic Table for your period, a brief history of pants and quite possibly the most accurate depiction of a tube top in all of recorded history. This book is serious fun, whether you’re flipping quickly for a snort-worthy one-liner (from the definition for librarian: “[I]n popular culture, a quiet brunette with glasses, hiding a slammin’ body and a libido set to eleven under that cardigan and tweed skirt”) or want to dig into the bio of a fearless performance artist.

HOMESPUN TALES

Knitting is no longer Granny’s game. Writes Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and editor of Knitting Yarns: “Knitting is hot, and shows no signs of cooling.” During a period of great loss, Hood found a way to cope with her grief through knitting’s calming, steady rhythm. But that’s only Hood’s story, and in Knitting Yarns, she has collected original essays (and one poem) from 27 best-selling and beloved writers. Some are practical, like Sue Grafton’s “Teaching a Child to Knit,” while others tell stories of pain and hope, like Ann Patchett’s “How Knitting Saved My Life. Twice.” Others trace the bonds between mothers and daughters, as with Joyce Maynard’s “Straw into Gold.” And after reading, you can knit some super-cute fingerless gloves using one of the six knitting patterns included in the book.

LADIES OF LITERATURE

We all remember the first time we read about Catherine Earnshaw falling irreparably in love in Wuthering Heights or about Edna Pontellier approaching the water in The Awakening. We remember how our favorite female characters transformed us, terrified us and enchanted us. Painter Samantha Hahn shares her own vision of 50 of literature’s most beloved heroines in Well-Read Women. Hahn’s watercolor paintings, each accompanied by hand-lettered quotations, evoke the tragedy, fierceness or innocence of characters ranging from Anna Karenina to Jane Eyre. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables holds the reader’s gaze, while Little Women’s Jo March couldn’t be bothered to put her shoes on. Other women nearly vanish into the soft bleed of watercolor, as with Middlemarch’s Dorothea Brooke, who is little more than the silhouette of her chin and one clever eye. Both a collection of striking artwork and classic quotations, Well-Read Women is a visual and literary delight.

AT HOME WITH LAUDER

Luxury and comfort blend perfectly in the gorgeous Beauty at Home. Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of Estée, takes readers into her office and her homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons to share classic inspiration from every inch of her life. Books this beautiful often feel dominated by the fantasy—who has the time or the money? But with Beauty at Home, Lauder tempers her extravagance with down-to-earth suggestions for mac’n’cheese and hostess gifts. Her boys’ rooms look refreshingly livable, with their artwork proudly displayed on the walls. After all, Lauder is a working mom, and while she clearly lives in a dream world, she still provides readers with the sense that clean simplicity can be incorporated into any woman’s life, no matter how busy. Lauder is as inspiring and savvy as her grandmother, but with a contemporary twist.

DANGEROUS HOUSEWIVES

The original bad girls of psychological suspense come together in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, an anthology of 14 short stories edited by Sarah Weinman. From the 1940s through the ’70s, long before thriller fans fell in love with haunting tales by Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a generation of now-unknown female writers turned the male-dominated crime fiction genre into a stomping ground for stifled wives exploring their desperate domestic situations. Weinman introduces the stories with a fascinating history of female mystery writers and their connections to both the feminist movement and the evolution of the genre. These writers transformed ordinary life and “pesky women’s issues” into slow-burning thrillers that not only entertained but also announced a voice for the women of the mid-20th century.

This holiday season, make her laugh, make her cry or make her think. But certainly make her curl up with a great book.
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Though it evolves constantly, fashion would grow stagnant without personal flourishes like a favorite pair of lived-in jeans. “The best things in life are free,” Chanel famously said. “The second best are very expensive.”

TASTEMAKERS
Fashion can be considered trivial or superficial, and in many ways this is true. But at its best, fashion can incite, even disturb, the imagination. Between the pages of W magazine, with its commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering the art of long-form photography, it thrives. Editor-in-Chief Stefano Tonchi collects 10 of the magazine’s finest productions from the past two decades in W: Stories, allowing an unexpected peek behind these remarkable, avant-garde editorials with outtakes, inspiration boards and brief essays from photographers, designers and more. Steven Meisel’s first shoot with W raised questions of beauty and gender with aggressive, androgynous models sprawling up and down half-lit urban alleys. Actress Tilda Swinton recalls her and photographer Tim Walker’s pilgrimage to Iceland, where they shot alien, forbidding images that at times look like stills from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Photographer Alex Prager describes assembling a lovely and gloomy cast of characters to portray a Hitchcockian day at the races. This is fashion at its most provocative, a necessary book for minds that require a little disturbance.

Tilda Swinton in W magazine, August 2011. From W: Stories, reprinted with permission.

CLOTHES HORSE
From fantasy we move to reality, and no book better captures the relationship between real women and their clothing than Women in Clothes. The truly stylish—or even those who have given the slightest thought to their style—aren’t taking their every cue from glossy magazine spreads, so editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton set out to discover just what women think about when they put themselves together. The result is a truly all-encompassing (but never overwhelming), contemporary “philosophy of style,” a collection of interviews and surveys of more than 600 artists, writers and other women. It’s like a massive conference call with all your friends and everyone else’s friends, too. As Heti writes, “The most compelling women are the ones who are distinctive, who are most like themselves and least like other women.” It’s nice to feel that your idiosyncracies and influences can be considered as important as good tailoring, and you may find yourself polling your friends, looking at other women differently or at least feeling a little better about owning 10 gray sweatshirts.

Or perhaps you have 12 pairs of red shoes or too many wrap dresses—no judgment either way. That being said, you’re likely to have one pair of red flats you love more than any other. Based on Emily Spivack’s blog of the same name, Worn Stories eschews the beautiful side of fashion for the pricelessness and singularity of that one favorite thing. More than 60 cultural figures and celebs, many of whom reside in New York, reveal their personal connections to just one item of clothing, from fashion designer and self-declared “total dork” Cynthia Rowley’s Girl Scout sash to John Hodgman’s Ayn Rand dress. One piece of clothing can tell quite a story, and this book is delightful proof of that.

PEARLS AND FLATS
Time and time again we return to Coco Chanel (1883-1971), the patron saint of classic, feminine style and a cultural force unlike any before or since. Though we recreate her image with our cardigans and taupe flats, biographers who have attempted to capture Chanel are more often than not thwarted by their own subject. Chanel notoriously tried to block anyone from writing her story and repeatedly obfuscated fact with fiction. According to Rhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, the gaps in Chanel’s story are as essential to her persona as her stylistic revolution. So rather than “pinning down a ghost,” this new bio explores Chanel’s story (as we know it) in relationship to the vast theater of European history. Garelick—who was granted unrestricted access to the Chanel Archives in Paris and to the diaries of Chanel’s lover, Grand Duke Dmitri Romanov—has produced an epic, well-researched balance of historical resonance and breathless admiration.

TIMELESS ARCHIVES
Fashion on its grandest scale lies within the pages of Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. The Met’s Costume Institute (reopened this year as the Anna Wintour Costume Center) houses more than 35,000 costumes and accessories from the 15th century on, and has been funded since 1948 by the yearly Costume Institute Benefit, an evening of pretty people dressed in pretty things. This book looks back on the exhibitions and galas of the 21st century, beginning with 2001’s “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” and ending with the architectural feats of high-glamour ball gowns in 2014’s “Charles James: Beyond Fashion.” Featuring Vogue editorials and essays by Hamish Bowles, this is where art, fashion and history collide, where creativity meets—and manipulates—our culture. It might be frivolous, but it’s far from trivial.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Though it evolves constantly, fashion would grow stagnant without personal flourishes like a favorite pair of lived-in jeans. “The best things in life are free,” Chanel famously said. “The second best are very expensive.”
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FALLING FOR FASHION
Why do we love the way we do? And how? And who? In The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance, Hal Rubenstein, author of 100 Unforgettable Dresses and co-founder of InStyle magazine, approaches this timeless topic through movies, television, music, fashion, politics and advertising, revealing how style can forever alter our notions of gender roles, sexuality and what love should look like. Rubenstein discusses influences like John Galliano, Nancy Reagan and grunge darlings Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, but his sweet spot is film, which he explores with infectious enthusiasm. Consider how Flashdance’s sliced sweatshirts resonated with a new generation of sexually independent young women. And where would trench coats be without Casablanca? Rubenstein’s prose is romantic, wry and even a little bit wicked; he knows what makes us tear up and when we want to laugh (kindly or not). Love can sour as quickly as the appeal of shoulder pads, but if you’re lucky, it can last a lifetime.

COSMETIC LEGACY
In the early ’90s, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth insisted that wearing makeup was a “violent backlash against feminism.” Professional makeup artist Lisa Eldridge offers the ultimate counterpoint with Face Paint. Makeup can be playful and creative, and while Eldridge has plenty of fun discussing beauty pioneers such as Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Jones, she considers makeup with an anthropological eye: “[T]he freedom and rights accorded to women during a given period are very closely linked to the freedom with which they painted their faces.” Beginning in ancient Egypt and moving through the golden age of Hollywood, Eldridge traces the vast history of cosmetics, explores the evolution of materials and techniques, and delves into the intrinsic ties between women’s history and the way we embellish our skin and lips. Makeup is what you make of it, Eldridge insists. It can make you part of the tribe, or it can set you apart from it.

PEOPLE, PARTIES, PLACES
Where’s Waldo? meets Perez Hilton in the hilariously illustrated Where’s Karl?: A Fashion-Forward Parody by Stacey Caldwell, Ajiri Aki and Michelle Baron. Fictional fashion blogger Fleur takes readers to the trendiest places around the world, from a photoshoot in Marrakech to Art Basel Miami. Our mission is to locate Karl Lagerfeld amid the riotous, flamboyant crowd, but you’ll also spot style crushes like Tilda Swinton and the Olsen twins, plus other members of the fashion elite, or as Fleur calls them, “mostly undiagnosed lunatics and megalomaniacs with highly covetable outfits.” Go ahead—obsess.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Explore the illustrious history of fashion through these stylish new books—and have a bit of frivolous fun while you’re at it.
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As I’m writing this, the online style community is rightfully pitching a fit over the smug comments by Vogue.com editors about “desperate” bloggers attending Milan Fashion Week. Such comments reflect the arrogance of those who fail to recognize today’s real fashion influencers. Fortunately, three of this year’s best style books know what an influencer looks like.

GO AHEAD AND COVET
When TheCoveteur.com launched in 2011, it was little more than a handful of profiles of the “unsung heroes of the [fashion] industry,” like makeup artists and stylists, individuals who guide our cultural aesthetic without our even knowing. Today, the website receives over four million visitors each month. The Coveteur: Private Spaces, Personal Style assembles 43 models, designers and style icons who have invited the Coveteur squad into their homes to photograph the contents of their (multiple) closets and the objects that fill their personal spaces. 

The book moves alphabetically, from Jessica Alba to Japanese DJ Mademoiselle Yulia, in a ravenous mural of curated excess. Each tastemaker’s section opens with a gushy essay from Coveteur cofounders Stephanie Mark and Jake Rosenberg about the experience of making these private spaces public, followed by photos that are simultaneously blown-out and wonderfully oversaturated. Some profiles are an amuse-bouche, as with designer Alice Temperley, whose mansion sits atop an ancient Tudor bear-fighting pen. Other profiles feel gluttonous, like Linda Rodin’s—creator of “cultish elixir” Rodin Olio Lusso—whose over-the-top piles of “thingamabobs” look like the Little Mermaid’s collection of souvenirs. 

In the Coveteur world, decadence is synonymous with compulsive hoarding, and “excess” is the dirty word you can’t stop saying.

SNEAKERHEADS
The museum exhibition “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture” is currently touring the United States, hopping from Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum to its current placement at Kentucky’s Speed Art Museum. From an 1860 spiked running shoe to original Air Jordan 1s, the 150 iconic sneakers included in the show represent the shoe’s cultural evolution from physical fitness tool to status symbol. There is a book associated with this show, Out of the Box by Elizabeth Semmelhack, which includes interviews, essays and ad campaigns. But for a comprehensive encyclopedia to sneakers, add Mathieu Le Maux’s 1000 Sneakers: A Guide to the World’s Greatest Kicks, from Sport to Street to your collection. It’s a fully loaded catalog for sneakerheads, with side-by-side comparisons of all the sneakers that matter most, from groundbreaking designs by Nike and Adidas to luxury styles from Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin. It’s bright and bold, with need-to-know facts, quick stats and anecdotes about sneaker superstars like Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith. Did you know “Asics” is an acronym for the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano, meaning “a healthy soul in a healthy body”? And because it’s (arguably) impossible to determine which sneaker is the best, there’s a section dedicated to the top shoes in a variety of categories: the most expensive, the top sneakers in movies, top Kanye, even the best for babies. See which sneakers are hottest in 2016, check out the glossary in the back for any further questions, and your education is complete.

GIRLBOSSES
Does anyone else get tired of dwelling on how hard it is to be a girl? Don’t get me wrong—give me any opportunity to honor the powerhouse women who blazed the trail, who inched us closer to equality in the face of sexism, and I’ll take it. But for those who need an exit strategy for the conversation, there’s Nasty Galaxy by Sophia Amoruso, entrepreneur and founder of fashion retailer Nasty Gal. Following her bestselling #GIRLBOSS, it’s a baby-pink compendium of Amoruso’s personal brand, filled with music, movie and book recommendations, profiles of “Bad Bitches” like Betty Davis, Grace Jones and Meiko Kaji, interviews with “Girlbosses” like filmmaker Alex Prager and Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine, and absolutely zero fashion advice. Alternately philosophical and frivolous, Amoruso shares her struggles with professional networking, quotes Gertrude Stein and offers some of the most hilarious advice that I’ve ever seen in a fashion book, with varying levels of usefulness (How to Go Commando; How to Check Out of a Fancy Hotel). In the Nasty Galaxy, style inspiration is infinite: Amoruso’s flawless bedroom was styled after a pair of vintage suede shorts.

Equal parts bad behavior and modern-day class, Nasty Galaxy is a glut of cool.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

As I’m writing this, the online style community is rightfully pitching a fit over the smug comments by Vogue.com editors about “desperate” bloggers attending Milan Fashion Week. Such comments reflect the arrogance of those who fail to recognize today’s real fashion influencers. Fortunately, three of this year’s best style books know what an influencer looks like.
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By definition, fashion is always in flux. As New York Times “On the Street” photographer Bill Cunningham explains, “An idea that is elegant at its time is an outrageous disgrace ten years earlier, daring five years before its height, and boring five years later.” These three books offer engaging looks at how trends evolve in the fashion world.

When Cunningham died in 2016, the world lost a trailblazing fashion icon. Thankfully, he left behind one last gift: a secret manuscript that’s now a book, Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs. And what a gift it is! You’ve never had such an effervescent guide through the style world—even fashion haters won’t be able to resist his charm.

Cunningham lived and breathed fashion from his earliest days, even though his mother “beat the hell out of him” when she caught him parading around their home in his sister’s dress as a preschooler. Despite his family’s shame, he doggedly pursued his passion, working after school in Jordan Marsh and Bonwit Teller department stores, where the gorgeous gowns made him think he’d “die of happiness.” With endless optimism, believing that “good came from every situation,” the Harvard dropout-turned-hat maker managed to transform being drafted into the Army in 1950 into a zany gig leading soldiers on weekend tours of Europe. Back home, he lived hand-to-mouth in his millinery shops and gate-crashed fashion shows, all the while making a name for himself.

Fashion Climbing is a multilayered fashion excursion and a heartfelt memoir that grabs you and never lets go. If only Cunningham had left behind a sequel covering the rest of his joyful, fashion-filled life.

STAN BY ME
Sometimes it’s best to simply embrace your worst feature. Early on, tennis player Stan Smith felt that was his feet: “One of the few disappointments of my tennis career were my big size 13 feet—yet the shoe I eventually wrapped around them enabled me to become better known than I could have ever imagined.” After being deemed too clumsy at age 15 to be a Davis Cup ball boy, Smith trained hard, eventually becoming a tennis great. Later, Smith’s sneaker deal with Adidas in the early 1970s led to a fashion craze and then a 1989 Guinness World Record, with 22 million pairs of those eponymous sneakers sold, more than any other “named” shoe.

Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe—a weighty tome that’s nearly as big as Smith’s foot—is a self-contained sneaker museum, detailing the many incarnations and influences of his famously green-trimmed, white-leather shoe, which originally featured the name of French tennis star Robert Haillet. With detailed, personal commentary from the modest, affable Smith, this fact-filled compendium takes the form of an alphabet book, with entries like “V is for Versatility,” explaining how Stan Smiths became hip-hop’s favorite footwear. As Smith confesses, “I guess that I have become somewhat of a modern sneakerhead since my closet is full of both everyday and rare shoes that all happen to be Stan Smiths.”

Stan Smith is a unique blend of sports history, funky fashion chronicle and chic celebrity memoir.

Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794. From Pink, edited by Valerie Steele. Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, California.

 

TICKLED PINK
Perhaps like me, you have a love-hate relationship with the color pink. If so, you’ll enjoy exploring those complicated emotions with Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color. Consider just a few of its many shades: Drunk Tank pink, Kissing pink, Millennial pink, Naive pink and, of course, Princess pink. You’ll learn that Asians, especially the Japanese, seem to like pink more than Europeans do, while in the United States, pink has been called “the most divisive of colors.” And guess what: Pink didn’t become associated with girls in the U.S. until the 1930s, and the “pinkification of girl culture” didn’t take over until the 1970s and ’80s, spurred by Barbie’s wardrobe.

This lavishly illustrated pink menagerie features everything from French fashion of the 1700s to a 1956 ad for a pink Royal Electric typewriter and plenty of political pussy hats, plus the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rihanna and Mamie Eisenhower all looking pretty in pink. Pink’s publication coincides with a major exhibition on view now at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Editor Valerie Steele, the chief curator of the exhibit, includes an intriguing mix of essays written by a costume designer, an art historian, a gender studies expert and more.

Whatever you think of pink, there are fascinating tidbits on every page of this eye-catching history.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

By definition, fashion is always in flux. As New York Times “On the Street” photographer Bill Cunningham explains, “An idea that is elegant at its time is an outrageous disgrace ten years earlier, daring five years before its height, and boring five years later.” These three books offer engaging looks at how trends evolve in the fashion world.

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Finnish sisters Saara and Laura Huhta share the wealth of their successful indie clothing pattern brand, Named, in Breaking the Pattern: A Modern Way to Sew. The nifty thing about their designs is the focus on extreme adaptability: They are “designed to offer as many options for personal customization as possible,” the sisters write. They have included patterns for 10 different garments—from bags and blouses to classy cocktail dresses and jumpsuits—and claim that “it’s possible to sew at least 50 different variations of the projects,” should you wish to experiment. These garments are built on Scandinavian design—clean lines, minimalist elegance—and they range from drapey styles to more tailored looks. In the back of the book, you’ll find six full-size pattern sheets, which are arranged from easiest to most challenging.

A new friend recently gave me a small pilea plant from one of the “babies” her plant produced. This has quickly become my most beloved houseplant—one with a story behind it. That’s the kind of joy that Caro Langton and Rose Ray, the authors of Root, Nurture, Grow: The Essential Guide to Propagating and Sharing Houseplants, want more people to experience. If you’ve got a good knife and scissors, some old containers, potting mix and a few other simple items, you can turn one houseplant into as many as you like. Langton and Ray (find them on Instagram at @studio.roco) cover different types of cuttings for a number of common plants, and they also discuss division, grafting and other in-depth aspects of propagation. Even if you stick to plunking stems into jars of water and watching roots form, you’ll enjoy having this pretty guide at your side.

Readers of Martha Stewart Living will recognize the concept of The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything: quick, no-nonsense instructions for home-related tasks. Here, Martha Stewart’s how-tos are organized by themes like “Organize,” “Clean,” “Craft” and “Create.” But I find this guide fascinating to flip through at random to learn things like how to sew an apron, how to hang a tire swing, how to play lawn games, how to fix and maintain showerheads and how to build a fire. On the whole, the slant of this content may seem a bit gendered, but it’s safe to say all humans could amp up their home skills with the help of this book. Light illustrations, bullet points and brisk copy—dip in, dip out, done—are the name of the game here.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Finnish sisters Saara and Laura Huhta share the wealth of their successful indie clothing pattern brand, Named, in Breaking the Pattern: A Modern Way to Sew. The nifty thing about their designs is the focus on extreme adaptability: They are “designed to offer as many options for personal customization as possible,” the sisters write. They have included patterns for 10 different garments—from bags and blouses to classy cocktail dresses and jumpsuits—and claim that “it’s possible to sew at least 50 different variations of the projects,” should you wish to experiment.

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Creativity is often born under unexpected circumstances, as these books so beautifully demonstrate.


The Art of Love by Kate Bryan
Married British artists Idris Khan and Annie Morris have a framed sign in their London home that’s meant to be ironic: “An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist.” Of course, two highly talented artistic souls living and creating together can be a dream, a nightmare or a highly charged bit of both, as evidenced by the endlessly fascinating stories revealed in The Art of Love: The Romantic and Explosive Stories Behind Art’s Greatest Couples.

British art curator Kate Bryan—a lively, informed guide—profiles 34 artistic couples, ranging from 1880 to the present, including the likes of Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, and Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Asli Yazan’s illustrations of these artists add a wonderful touch of color, helping to bring their personalities to life.

Bryan writes that her goal was to “present as many different perspectives on artists in love as possible.” She focuses on how these relationships affected each creator’s art instead of chronicling the melodrama—yet she does dole out a variety of delicious tidbits, like the fact that even after Frida Kahlo divorced Diego Rivera, who was 21 years her senior, she “continued to mother the wayward beast, even running him baths with rubber ducks.” Oh my.

Skip by Molly Mendoza
Art and story meld beautifully in Skip, Molly Mendoza’s virtuoso graphic novel about fear and courage, friendship, change and creativity. In a dystopian world rife with the threat of attacking “tech-hounds,” a child named Bloom and his guardian, Bee, live on a lake’s island, subsisting on duck eggs and fish. After hearing a radio SOS, Bee announces that she must leave, asking Bloom to be brave until she comes back from her rescue mission—except she never returns.

While skipping stones one day, Bloom suddenly finds himself in a completely different world, where he meets a mysterious creature named Gloopy who’s having a hard time fulfilling his creative spirit and fitting into his community. Bloom and Gloopy join forces and “skip” into several different worlds, facing a myriad of dangerous creatures: a giant, lonely bird and a universe creator named Lily, who urges Gloopy to follow his creative desires. Mendoza describes her own artistic style as “chaotic yet rhythmic,” and her multicolored, imaginative creations make Skip a memorable, action-packed adventure, full of bold swirls of both color and emotion.

Body by Nathalie Herschdorfer
Curator and art historian Nathalie Herschdorfer has compiled a glorious celebration of the human form with more than 350 images from over 175 photographers in Body: The Photography Book. As she notes in the preface, contemporary photography reflects society’s changing standards of beauty and opens up “new pathways for bodily representations and perspectives beyond the traditional nude.” With artists like Sally Mann, Herb Ritts, Cindy Sherman and Liu Bolan, the sweepingly broad perspectives are fascinating, a mix of fantasy and reality.

You’ll see a 3D ultrasound of an 8-month-old yawning, the hunched figures of elderly people walking, sculpturelike nudes, baseball players in action, a crowd of happily dancing people at a Scottish Town Hall Christmas party and even the colorfully abstract, highly magnified view of the connections between human nerve cells. There are disturbing images as well—an anorexic young woman, a man’s face after a fight, scars left on a refugee’s back by the Taliban. Youth, love, joy, movement, health, disease, celebration—Body honors the many sizes, shapes and moments that make us all human.

Shoot for the Moon by Tim Walker
Shoot for the Moon takes its title from a Norman Vincent Peale quotation: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” It’s an apt title, for renowned British fashion photographer Tim Walker spends his life among stars, creating famously surreal wonderlands within his images.

A follow-up to a previous volume, Story Teller, Shoot for the Moon focuses Walker’s lens on the darker side of his imagination, somewhere he’d “been previously too scared to visit.” In a brief introduction, he writes, “Like every child, I had a fear of the dark—but now I know that it is here, in the shadows, that the magic is hidden.”

And what magic there is! These images are at times fun, funky, bizarre, glamorous, spooky and over the top, featuring celebrities like Claire Foy, RuPaul, Bill Hader, Tommy Lee Jones, Tilda Swinton and Whoopi Goldberg, all like you’ve never seen them before. A number of comments are included from models like Kate Moss, who says: “Tim’s magic is that he makes fantasy believable. He makes otherworldly images that seem so accessible.” Fashion fans will quickly lose themselves in these wonder-filled pages.

Creativity is often born in unexpected circumstances, as these books so beautifully demonstrate.

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Leif Enger’s third novel, Virgil Wander, centers on the eponymous protagonist who lives in the quaint, rustic town of Greenstone, Minnesota. By day, Virgil begrudgingly works as the town clerk, but by night, he is the proprietor of the Empress, a fledgling movie theater that specializes in projecting its exclusive and illegal film collection. During a drive one snowy evening, Virgil’s car skids off the road and crashes into Lake Superior. Luckily, he is a saved by Marcus Jetty, the owner of the local junkyard. Virgil emerges from the accident with a fleeting grasp of language and flickering memories of his former life.

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