Whether you're bored stiff with your current reading list, or getting a jump on your Christmas shopping, fashion fans will find a lot of delicious new literature at their local bookseller. We talk a lot about fashion, we watch a lot about fashion, and--according to celebrity stylist and Project Runway alum Nick Verreos--we should be reading a lot about fashion, too. After all, the history of fashion is a fascinating (and lovely) lens through which to view our world, past and present.
Although 2014 brought us dozens of new fashion and beauty titles, the following five each bring something special--a hidden backstory, a cautionary tale, an insider's peek--and deserve examination, and a place on your home bookshelf or coffee table.
I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist by Betty Halbreich
You'll consume I'll Drink to That more than you'll read it. So many adjectives apply--absorbing, effortless, glamorous, thoughtful--it's impossible to quantify. Author Betty Halbreich basically invented the occupation of personal shopper, and her 40 years at legendary department store Bergdof Goodman comprises just the second half of her incredible life. This is a gorgeous book to purchase for yourself, but do consider it for every single lover of fashion, beauty, and elegance in your circle of friends and family. Betty Halbreich is a national treasure.
How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas
You might be thinking, "Another Parisian style guide?" and who could blame you? It does seem like a new tome emerges every year to advise us all how to fake our way to Frenchness. How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are brings a fresh perspective; it's a funny, fast read that you can pick up and put down, and you can open to any page and begin reading. A great gift for Francophile girlfriends, or perhaps a student planning on studying abroad in France. Charming, easy, and delightful.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion (Metropolitan Museum of Art) by Harold Koda, Jan Reeder
The first of two books based on exhibits at the Met, Charles James: Beyond Fashion has a distinct Houston connection. Couturier Charles James created more than just clothes, he also designed furniture--notably for the Houston de Menil family. Many consider James "America's First Couturier," and the 2014 exhibit earned a rave from the New York Times.
Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick
How many books about Mademoiselle can a person read and/or own? As many as they can print. There can never be enough written about the enigmatic revolutionary Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. When it comes to "iconic" who can compete? Chanel No. 5 alone places Coco in a class by herself, never mind legacy using jersey knits, the Chanel suit, the little black dress for crying out loud! When it comes to Mademoiselle there are no words--but we're still going to read all of them, including Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History.
Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People by Hamish Bowles
A pretty good rule of thumb is this: If it's about Vogue, and Hamish Bowles wrote it, buy it. This insider's view of Costume Institute--and the annual gala that draws every big-name celebrity and designer--is really a must for fans of costume design, fashion, celebrity culture, or all of the above. And for fans of Vogue photographers--Grace Coddington, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, and more--it's going to be a favorite coffee table book for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion by Maureen Callahan
Children of the '90s are probably more susceptible to this book's charms than others. Basically, if you make time to watch George Michael's video Freedom at least once a week, this book is for you. Champagne Supernova is, in and of itself, a great '90s reference; the book explores the decade through three of its most iconic style personalities--Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs. Perhaps more of a guilty pleasure than a must-read, it certainly earns an honorable mention.