5 beautiful books for fashion fans
Volumes on haute-couture artisans, the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute and fashion illustrator Joe Eula are on this list of stylish gift books.
Seattle Times arts writer
Love fashion? Fascinated by why we wear what we wear? Or just fond of looking at pretty pictures? Here are five new books that might bring holiday cheer to any would-be stylist.
“Haute Couture Ateliers,” by Hélène Farnault (Vendome Press, $75). Those fascinated by delicate craftsmanship may need to just eat this beautiful book up with a spoon. It’s a tribute to the skilled artisans who create the many details of a couture garment, and its photographs are stunning: a cobweb of intricate lace, seeming to float ghostlike over the silk tulle to which it’s sewn; a froth of blue-and-silver sequins like waves on a beach; embroidered flowers that seem nurtured in some fantasy garden; richly woven damasks and brocades; an accordion of tiny pleats, made from molds designed and maintained by four generations of pleaters. I got happily lost in this book, imagining the hands that made such beauty; so might you.
“Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People,” by Hamish Bowles (Abrams Books, $50). The Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art presents annual exhibits from its vast collection, ranging from the sophisticated midcentury elegance of Charles James (2014) to a superhero-themed exhibit examining the transformative power of fashion (2008) to the bold surrealism and innovation of Schiaparelli and Prada (2012). This book, by Vogue’s international editor-at-large, takes us behind the scenes of 14 exhibits — giving us an up-close view of the garments themselves and of the very stylish opening-night guests at each exhibit’s gala. If you couldn’t make it to New York to see these displays, this is the next best thing; great fun to browse.
“Worn Stories” by Emily Spivack(Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95). “We all have a memoir in miniature living in a garment we’ve worn,” writes Spivack, in this beguiling book’s foreword. To that end, she’s invited dozens of people (many, but not all, writers and/or artists) to write brief essays about what a favorite piece of clothing means to them, each presented next to a stark photo of the garment on a hanger. The results include a Holocaust survivor’s simple gray suit (made from fabric from her parents’ department store), a patched and holey apple-green sweater (a favorite of the writer’s mother), a ’90s floral-print dress kept as a souvenir of a memorable evening — unremarkable clothes, here made eloquent.
“Eula” by Cathy Horyn (Harper Design, $85). Lovely match here of author and subject: Horyn, former fashion critic for The New York Times, wrote the lively text accompanying this first published collection of the work of fashion illustrator Joe Eula. The artist, who died in 2004, spent decades working for a vast roster of legendary designers, and also had a busy career in design of theatrical and concert posters (a famous one breezily captures a red-lipped Liza Minnelli mid-note) and costumes. His sketches have a loose, effortless quality to them; you feel as if these models in their 1960s shifts might go-go right off the page.
“Women in Clothes,” by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton and 639 others (Blue Rider Press, $30). For those who like their fashion books with lots of words in them, here’s a 500-plus-page anthology that’s crowdsourced from online surveys filled out by more than 600 women. (A few of them are well-known — yes, the ubiquitous Lena Dunham is here, talking about her own style — but most are not.) The book’s made up of interview excerpts, unique photos (in one series, women photocopy their hands and talk about their rings; in another, six strangers wear each other’s favorite outfits), and random musings on what our clothing says about us. Seems like the perfect thick book to dive into on a rainy day — wearing a cozy sweater, of course.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org