Top 50 Fashion Books of All Time

The fashion industry has exploded in the last couple of decades, and the everyday consumer and critic has much more power than ever before. As street style has replaced haute couture, the industry is still reinventing itself, and it’s an exciting time for anyone who wants to break into the industry. Fashion is still an incredibly competitive market, however, and whether you’re looking to get your bachelor’s degree in fashion design, marketing, merchandising or journalism, or you just want to learn about all the behind-the-scenes stories, fashion books are a great way to educate yourself. Here are our votes for the top 50 fashion books of all time.

Style and Photography

These coffee table books and how-to guides are packed with mesmerizing photographs of models, clothing and photo shoots, inspiring and guiding you to find your own personal style.

  1. Avedon Fashion 1944-2000: Flip through the stunning portraits and photographs of legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who inspired one of the lead characters in the Audrey Hepburn film Funny Face.
  2. The Model as Muse: Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan celebrate the most iconic and influential model/muses in fashion: Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, Cindy Crawford, and more.
  3. Style A to Zoe: Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe shares tips for being more glamorous in this book.
  4. Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style: The lovable — and now controversial — Tim Gunn shares his witty, sometimes harsh style advice and criticisms here.
  5. How to Have Style: This classic how-to book from designer Isaac Mizrahi comes with a fashion questionnaire and teaches readers how to build a wardrobe, becoming fashion collectors.
  6. Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images: Compiled and written by Graydon Carter and David Friend and an introduction by Christopher Hitchens, you’ll see important images documenting celebrity-dom, fashion, culture and our modern interpretation of beauty.
  7. The Little Black Book of Style: Fashion editor Nina Garcia helps women communicate their identity through their personal style.
  8. Influence: Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen are now known more for their trend-altering style and successful foray into ready-to-wear design than their tween acting, and they’re respected members of the industry. In this coffee table book, you’ll get to see the people, images and eras that inspired them.
  9. The Sartorialist: Photographer Scott Schuman has done a lot for fashion bloggers and the street style craze, and his book of regular people with fabulous, creative taste is truly inspiring and a veritable celebration of fashion and art.
  10. The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places: Hamish Bowles’ collected pictures of fabulous people in even more fabulous clothes for this book.
  11. Kate Moss by Mario Testino: Prestigious fashion photographer Mario Testino just released this book of some of Kate Moss’ best pictures. A very limited number of books was published, each selling for nearly $2,500.
  12. Patrick Demarchelier: Another legendary fashion photographer, Patrick Demarchelier shares an expansive collection of photographs from his work for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and more.
  13. The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman: Karen Karbo selects little snippets of wisdom and style from Coco Chanel, an innovative and opinionated modern designer.

Fashion History

Learn about trends and design techniques throughout history, designer rivalries, and the high-profile celebrities, editors and industry leaders who influenced fashion over the years.

  1. The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris: Alicia Drake’s celebrated book looks back at the bitter rivalry between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, and the city that inspired them and that they styled.
  2. In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine: This coffee table book tracks Vogue from its launch in 1892 to its present era, complete with some of the most important fashion photography and figures in history.
  3. D.V.: Former Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue fashion editor Diana Vreeland was a larger-than-life character who made everything more fabulous, but often baffled her contemporaries along the way. Read this book for insight into her colorful life and oddball declarations.
  4. Chic Savages: WWD and W publisher John Fairchild wrote this book to share stories about some of the more interesting characters in couture and high fashion, including Ivana Trump, Nancy Reagan, and others.
  5. Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster: Reporter Dana Thomas looks at the decline of quality and mystery in European fashion houses.
  6. Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball: Capote wasn’t just a great writer: he was a huge presence in the fashion and nightlife world, too.
  7. Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed: This book is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art series and surveys human history’s different garments and accessories designed to confine, smooth, and manipulate the body according to the styles of the day.
  8. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day: Bronwyn Cosgrave’s retrospective is divided into nine parts, documenting popular accessories, makeup trends, dresses, masks, shoes and undergarments since Ancient Egypt.
  9. A Cultural History of Fashion in the Twentieth Century: From the Catwalk to the Sidewalk: Bonnie English explores how fashion went from haute couture to a street phenomenon.
  10. Fashion (Oxford History of Art): Christopher Breward’s book looks at the modern evolution of fashion as an art form, exploring multidisciplinary topics like advertising, publishing, fashion technology and film, too.
  11. 100 Dresses: The Costume Institute / The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Browse 100 of the most beautiful and extravagant gowns ever made, on exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute.

Biographies and Designers

Here you’ll find biographies and designer profiles of people like Coco Chanel, Valentino Garavani, Yves Saint Laurent, and Anna Wintour.

  1. Diane: A Signature Life: Royal turned socialite turned fashion designer turned bankrupt embarrassment turned CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg has quite a story to tell, and she’s still an inspiration for young, middle-aged and old women.
  2. Valentino: Themes and Variations: Pamela Golbin’s book celebrates the newly retired Valentino Garavani’s legacy, showing up close photos of fabric samples and some of the most beautifully constructed clothing of all time.
  3. Front Row: Anna Wintour: What Lies Beneath the Chic Exterior of Vogue’s Editor in Chief: Vogue EIC is said to have forbidden friends and colleagues from being sources for this biography, which reveals her upbringing in swinging 60s London and how she made it to the top of one of the most influential fashion publications in the world.
  4. A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life In Fashion, Art, and Letters: Snow served as Harper’s Bazaar EIC for twenty-five years, and this account of her life proves how revolutionary she was in fashion and journalism.
  5. The Allure of Chanel: Paul Morand’s first-person account of Coco Chanel was supposedly written partly by Coco herself and does not leave out anything regarding her scandals, affairs and business.
  6. Yves Saint Laurent: This biography and tribute to one of the greatest designers of all time is written by Farid Chenoune and Florence Muller, and was published in accordance with a retrospective of YSL at Paris’s Petit Palais.
  7. Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation: Just months after burgeoning designer Alexander McQueen took his own life, Kristin Knox’s book — with glorious accompanying photographs — evidences the young Brit’s genius in terms of artistry, construction and drama.
  8. Christian Dior: The Biography: Marie-France Pochna’s book comes with an introduction by John Galliano, who now oversees design for Dior, and beautiful illustrations.
  9. Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion: This biography by Lauren Godstein Crowe examines the tumultuous, dramatic life of Isabella Blow, who took her own life just before her friend Alexander McQueen also committed suicide.
  10. Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel: This is a fun book showcasing some of the eccentric fashions of Iris Apfel.
  11. Edie: American Girl: Read the biography of the tragic but trend-setting Edie Sedgwick, written by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.

Literature and Novels

From fun chick lit to classic literature that celebrates and inspires fashion, here are some fictional reads to check out, too.

  1. The Devil Wears Prada: Lauren Weisberger’s fictionalized novel about the hellish offices at Vogue was turned into a feature film starring Meryl Streep as the Anna Wintour-based character.
  2. Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion: Katherine Joslin looks at the clothes Edith Wharton’s female characters wore in this study of culture, literature and fashion.
  3. Bergdorf Blondes: Plum Sykes’ modern day Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a cheeky adventure of two New York socialites, full of designer name dropping and shopping that’s a lot of fun.
  4. Gone With the Wind: It’s not exactly a book about fashion, but the drama and passion of the era and the characters’ relationships also inspire impressive clothes.

Surviving the Industry

Get tips on breaking into the industry — and saving your spot once you get there — from these books.

  1. The Fashion Designer Survival Guide: Mary Gehlhar writes this book, with a forward by designer Diane von Furstenberg, to help designers start their own business.
  2. The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever: Teri Agins’ book uncovers the harsh realities of the fashion and retail industries.
  3. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You: Fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone is known (via reality TV) for her harsh delivery but fair critiques in the fashion industry, particularly in fashion show production and in public relations. This smart book is a must-read for anyone who wants to survive in the industry, in any niche area.
  4. In Fashion: From Runway to Retail, Everything You Need to Know to Break Into the Fashion Industry: Annemarie Iverson is a former beauty and fashion news director of Harper’s Bazaar and EIC of Seventeen, and she shares tips on getting into the fashion industry and figuring out which career path is best for you.
  5. The Business of Fashion: Designing, Manufacturing, and Marketing: Leslie Davis Burns’ and Nancy O. Bryant’s book is in its 3rd edition and serves as an important resource for understanding the real business of fashion.
  6. Fashion: The Industry and Its Careers: If you want to learn about the various careers in the fashion industry, check out this book.
  7. The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion: Look up fashion terms in over 50 categories like construction details, jewelry and footwear. This dictionary is also in its 3rd edition.
  8. Fashion Brands: Branding Style from Armani to Zara: Mark Tungate explains how designers and retailers are branded in the fashion industry to appeal to different levels of consumers.
  9. The Fashion Intern: Young men and women looking to break into the industry can learn about fashion internships, how to get them, which ones to apply for, and why they’re so important.
  10. Fashion Law: A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives, and Attorneys: Fashion law is an emerging niche within the two industries, and this book will help you learn about copyright laws and more.
  11. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade: Pietra Rivoli’s investigative book unravels the global economy of fashion and consumerism.

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