First went fashion month, then went art month, how does one satisfy one’s fashion thirst after that? How about getting an insider’s look at some of the most legendary figures in fashion, and brush up on some fashion knowledge along the way? Time to pick up a fashion biography. Some of our favorite books in fashion are about the lives, struggles, and honest thoughts of the women and men who define fashion as we know it. Check out our top picks of fashion biographies below and get ready to be taking away to alternate universes from the eyes of Diane von Furstenburg, Bill Blass, Coco Chanel and more…
The Woman I Wanted to Be
by Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg started out with a suitcase full of jersey dresses and an idea of who she wanted to be- “in her words, the kind of woman who is independent and who doesn’t rely on a man to pay her bills.” She has since become that woman, establishing herself as a global brand and a major force in the fashion industry, all the while raising a family and maintaining “my children are my greatest creation.”
In The Woman I Wanted to Be, von Furstenberg reflects on her extraordinary life from childhood in Brussels to her days as a young, jet-set princess, to creating the dress that came to symbolize independence and power for an entire generation of women. With remarkable honesty and wisdom, von Furstenberg mines the rich territory of what it means to be a woman. She opens up about her family and career, overcoming cancer, building a global brand, and devoting herself to empowering other women, writing, “I want every woman to know that she can be the woman she wants to be.” (Chicago Tribune)
And inspiring story of a woman carving out her own path and sticking to her guts and guns, The Woman I Wanted to Be won’t just inspire the fashionista in you, but the born leader in you as well.
If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You
By Kelly Cutrone
Kelly Cutrone has long been mentoring women on how to make it in one of the most competitive industries in the world. In her trademark, no-bullshit style, she combines personal and professional stories to share her secrets for success without selling out. Raw, hilarious, shocking, but always the honest truth, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside calls upon you to gather up your courage like an armful of clothes at a McQueen sample sale and follow your soul where it takes you. Whether you’re just starting out in the world or looking to reinvent yourself, this book will be the spark you need to figure out what you have to say to the world and how you’re going to say it.
As an into or follow up to the book we also suggest watching the reality TV show Kell on Earth documenting the ups and downs her and her team goes through as they prepare for fashion week. Gripping, insightful yet hilarious and heartwarming!
Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion
By Lauren Goldstein Crowe
In 2007, the news of Isabella Blow’s suicide at the age of 48 made headlines around the world―but there is more to the story of Isabella than her tragic end. The key supporter and muse of milliner Philip Treacy and designer Alexander McQueen, Blow was truly more than a muse or patron. She was a spark, an electrical impulse that set imaginations racing, an individual who pushed others to create their best work.
Her fascination with clothing began early, as did a willingness to wear things―and say things―that would amuse and shock. She began her fashion career in New York City as assistant to Anna Wintour at Vogue. Over time she became famous for her work, yet it wasn’t enough to assuage her devastating feelings of inadequacy. Still, in her darkest moments, even as she began a series of suicide attempts and prolonged hospital stays, Blow retained her wicked sense of humor, making her friends laugh even as they struggled to help.
In this book, journalist Lauren Goldstein Crowe has painted an insightful portrayal of a woman whose thirst for the fantastical ultimately became irreconcilable with life in the real world.
By Bill Blass and Cathy Horyn
New York Times fashion critic Horyn teamed up with quintessential American designer Blass to write this memoir in 1999. They finished it just weeks before his death on June 12 of this year. Nonlinear in format, Blass skips from telling of a 1949 prize he won for designing a gingham dress with a patent leather belt, to a 1971 fashion show in Fort Wayne, Ind., and then back to his role serving in the armed forces during WWII-the book has the feel of a scrapbook of memories, which is indeed delightful when one considers the colorful life Blass led.
Bill Blass was at the intersection of American fashion and society for fifty years. He was the first designer to break out of the back rooms of Seventh Avenue and be welcomed into the drawing rooms of New York. A candid portrayal of an American success story, Bare Blass is a book that would inspire generations of designers to come.
Grace: A Memoir
By Grace Coddington
Beautiful. Willful. Charming. Blunt. Grace Coddington’s extraordinary talent and fierce dedication to her work as creative director of Vogue have made her an international icon. Known through much of her career only to those behind the scenes, she might have remained fashion’s best-kept secret were it not for The September Issue, the acclaimed 2009 documentary that turned publicity-averse Grace into a sudden, reluctant celebrity. Grace’s palpable engagement with her work brought a rare insight into the passion that produces many of the magazine’s most memorable shoots.
With the witty, forthright voice that has endeared her to her colleagues and peers for more than forty years, Grace now creatively directs the reader through the storied narrative of her life so far. Evoking the time when models had to tote their own bags and props to shoots, Grace describes her early career as a model, working with such world-class photographers as David Bailey and Norman Parkinson, before she stepped behind the camera to become a fashion editor at British Vogue in the late 1960s. Here she began creating the fantasy “travelogues” that would become her trademark. In 1988 she joined American Vogue, where her breathtakingly romantic and imaginative fashion features, a sampling of which appear in this book, have become instant classics.
Grace also reveals her private world with equal candor—the car accident that almost derailed her modeling career, her two marriages, the untimely death of her sister, Rosemary, her friendship with Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Liz Tilberis, and her thirty-year romance with Didier Malige. Finally, Grace describes her abiding relationship with Anna Wintour, and the evolving mastery by which she has come to define the height of fashion.
Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy
By Judith Watt
This incredible volume strips away the layers of legend surrounding Alexander McQueen, revealing the sartorial genius and the true history of the man who reinvented modern fashion. Uncovering new details about Lee Alexander McQueen’s humble childhood in East London, author Judith Watt traces the young designer’s ascent—from his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design to his over-the-top runway shows to the designs he created just days before his death at age forty.
Providing new insights into the dark passion and inspiration that guided each fever-pitched runway show, this fully illustrated portrait delivers a truly comprehensive, in-depth look at the most provocative designer of a generation. Illustrated throughout with McQueen’s personal drawings and ephemera as well as a mixture of exquisite catwalk and editorial fashion images, Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy is every bit as stunning as the designer himself.
By Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school — a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.
Flash forward to today, she’s the founder of Nasty Gal and the founder and CEO of Girlboss. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she has written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.
Now a Netflix TV show and podcast where different female entrepreneurs and leaders are interviewed by Amoruso, #GIRLBOSS is a must read modern rags to riches story. Although Amoruso received criticism after the company Nasty Gal she created went bust — as her mother said “Girlboss is who you are. Nasty Gal is what you did.” #GIRLBOSS is a timeless story on determination, hard work, and carving your own path towards success.
by Diana Vreeland
Brilliant, funny, charming, imperious, Diana Vreeland – the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and editor-in-chief of Vogue, was a woman whose passion and genius for style helped define the world of high fashion for fifty years. Among her eclectic circle of friends were some of the most renowned and famous figures of the twentieth century—artists and princes, movie stars and international legends, including Chanel, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Isak Dinesen, Clark Gable, and Swifty Lazar.
Moving from English palaces to the nightclubs of 1930s Paris, the wilds of Wyoming to the exclusive venues of New York high society, D.V. takes readers into this iconic woman’s dazzling life, evoking the luxury and brio of an era that encompassed Josephine Baker, England’s Queen Mary, Buffalo Bill, and Diaghilev.
Vibrant with the vivid, irresistible voice that elevated every tÊte-À-tÊte and dinner party, D.V. brings this renowned and uninhibited raconteur alive, whether recalling herself as a young girl, her search for the perfect red, her piquant observations about her world, or her abhorrence for nostalgia. Like her legacy, Vreeland’s story, told in her own words, is a classic to be celebrated by both loyal admirers and a new generation of culture mavens and style savants.
Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life
by Justine Picardie
The story of Chanel begins with an abandoned child, as lost as a girl in a dark fairy tale. Unveiling remarkable new details about Gabrielle Chanel’s early years in a convent orphanage and her flight into unconventional adulthood, Justine Picardie explores what lies beneath the glossy surface of a mythic fashion icon.
Throwing new light on her passionate and turbulent relationships, this beautifully constructed portrait gives a fresh and penetrating look at how Coco Chanel made herself into her own most powerful creation. An authoritative account, based on personal observations and interviews with Chanel’s last surviving friends, employees and relatives, it also unravels her coded language and symbols, and traces the influence of her formative years on her legendary style.
Feared and revered by the rest of the fashion industry, Coco Chanel died in 1971 at the age of eighty-seven, but her legacy lives on. Drawing on unprecedented research, Justine Picardie brings her fascinating, enigmatic subject out of hiding and uncovers the consequences of what Chanel covered up, unpicking the seams between truth and myth in a story that reveals the true heart of fashion.
Sources: Amazon book descriptions and Goodreads.com