74 books like How to Read a Dress

By Lydia Edwards,

Here are 74 books that How to Read a Dress fans have personally recommended if you like How to Read a Dress. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

Too often, our idea of history (or prehistory) is of men doing things and women silently following. Barber dives into the history of textiles to show how spinning, weaving, and cloth were not only drivers of culture and civilization but also a major technological achievement akin to harnessing fire and developing agriculture.

I was blown away both by the book’s premise and by the obvious passion and breadth of knowledge Barber brought to showing just how the stunning leap forward taken by women with spindles kick-started what we think of as civilization.

We take clothes for granted, but the first person to think of cloth rather than animal skins gave a great gift to humanity, one which may never be equaled.

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Women's Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have…


Book cover of Fashion History from the 18th to the 20th Century

Cora Harrington Author Of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

From my list on the history of fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clothing is one of the most important aspects of our humanity, of the things which make us who we are. We use fashion to identify allies and enemies. To express our interests, politics, and belief systems. To make a statement about who we are to the outside world. To show our identity or ethnicity. Or to indicate our affiliation with certain groups. Fashion is everywhere, but compared to other disciplines, is very rarely talked about. Though I'm a lingerie expert, fashion in its totality interests me. I’m excited every time I learn something new, not just because I enjoy pretty garments, but because I also learn something about the nature of who we are.

Cora's book list on the history of fashion

Cora Harrington Why did Cora love this book?

Fashion is, of course, a visual medium. It’s also one with a very long history. If you want to get familiar with what people have been wearing for the last few centuries, this is the book. All the garments are taken from the Kyoto Costume Institute, a place I hope to visit one day. I’ve read this book cover to cover several times (even accidentally purchasing it more than once!), and I consider it an essential volume in my research library.

By Taschen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fashion History from the 18th to the 20th Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Clothes define people. A person's attire, whether it's a sari, kimono, or business suit, is an essential code to his or her culture, class, personality, even faith. Founded in 1978, the Kyoto Costume Institute recognizes the importance of understanding clothes from sociological, historical, and artistic perspectives. With one of the world's most extensive clothing collections, the KCI has amassed a wide range of historical garments, underwear, shoes, and fashion accessories dating from the 18th century to the present day.

Showcasing the Institute's vast collection, Fashion History is a fascinating excursion through the last three centuries of clothing trends. Featuring impeccable…


Book cover of Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present

Cora Harrington Author Of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

From my list on the history of fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clothing is one of the most important aspects of our humanity, of the things which make us who we are. We use fashion to identify allies and enemies. To express our interests, politics, and belief systems. To make a statement about who we are to the outside world. To show our identity or ethnicity. Or to indicate our affiliation with certain groups. Fashion is everywhere, but compared to other disciplines, is very rarely talked about. Though I'm a lingerie expert, fashion in its totality interests me. I’m excited every time I learn something new, not just because I enjoy pretty garments, but because I also learn something about the nature of who we are.

Cora's book list on the history of fashion

Cora Harrington Why did Cora love this book?

From poisonous gowns to flammable petticoats, Fashion Victims shares the dark side of fashion history. What was the human cost to those beautiful gowns, both in terms of the wearers and the makers? This book is a little grimmer than my previous recommendations but no less interesting. A fascinating read.

By Alison Matthews David,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fashion Victims as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.

Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress, in myth and reality. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths…


Book cover of Underwear: Fashion in Detail

Cora Harrington Author Of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

From my list on the history of fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clothing is one of the most important aspects of our humanity, of the things which make us who we are. We use fashion to identify allies and enemies. To express our interests, politics, and belief systems. To make a statement about who we are to the outside world. To show our identity or ethnicity. Or to indicate our affiliation with certain groups. Fashion is everywhere, but compared to other disciplines, is very rarely talked about. Though I'm a lingerie expert, fashion in its totality interests me. I’m excited every time I learn something new, not just because I enjoy pretty garments, but because I also learn something about the nature of who we are.

Cora's book list on the history of fashion

Cora Harrington Why did Cora love this book?

Of course, I can’t put together a list of fashion books without dedicating one of them to lingerie. Underwear: Fashion in Detail was one of the first lingerie-focused books I purchased (the other was Valerie Steel’s The Corset, unfortunately no longer in print). Full of amazing photos and equally amazing diagrams, if you want to learn about lingerie specifically, this is where to start.

By Eleri Lynn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Underwear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From camisoles to corsets, basques to boudoir caps and girdles to garters, Underwear: Fashion in Detail gets up close to some of the most intimate items in the V&A. The book traces the evolution of underwear, from rare examples dating from the sixteenth century and the exaggerated shapes of eighteenth-century courtly undergarments, to Dior's curvaceous 'New Look' girdles to contemporary lingerie by Agent Provocateur and Rigby and Peller. Meticulous colour photography shows these fascinating garments in close detail, while intricate line drawings reveal their construction. The book also highlights the work of designers such as Vionnet and Westwood, who have…


Book cover of Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City

Alyssa Hardy Author Of Worn Out: How Our Clothes Cover Up Fashion's Sins

From my list on style.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fashion has been the love of my life since I was a little kid pouring over magazines and watching shows on fashion TV in the middle of the night. But I’ve always known fashion is not about clothing, its about feeling and it’s about people. That’s why I love to read the stories about people who work in fashion, who have been impacted by fashion and those who love it just as much as I do. 

Alyssa's book list on style

Alyssa Hardy Why did Alyssa love this book?

If you prefer something more visual when it comes to books about style, Worn in New York is certainly that.

It’s a fun look at specific pieces of clothing that were, well, worn in New York by influential people. Each one is a first-person account of a specific item and it corresponds to a photo of the piece. One of my favorites is the story and image of actress Aubrey Plaza’s page uniform that she apparently stole when she worked at NBC. 

By Emily Spivack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Worn in New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The boots a passenger had on when his plane landed on the Hudson River.
The tank top Andy Warhol's assistant wore to one of their nightclub outings together.
The jacket a taxi driver put on to feel safe as he worked the night shift.


These and over sixty other clothing-inspired narratives make up Worn in New York, the latest volume from New York Times bestselling author Emily Spivack. In these first-person accounts, contributors in and out of the public eye share surprising, personal, wild, poignant, and funny stories behind a piece of clothing that reminds them of a significant moment…


Book cover of Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look

Nancy Woloch Author Of The Insider: A Life of Virginia C. Gildersleeve

From my list on women’s colleges and their histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher of US women’s history and educational history, I have long been interested in women’s colleges—in their faculties, administrators, students, alumnae, goals, and achievements. Most recently, as the biographer of a woman educator (a dean of Barnard College in the early 20th century), I became more deeply involved with the literature on single-sex schools. Major books focus on the older women’s colleges, the “Seven Sisters,” but devote attention to other colleges as well. I am impressed with the talents of historians, with their skill at asking questions of their subjects, with the intensity of mission at the women’s schools, and with changing styles of campus culture.

Nancy's book list on women’s colleges and their histories

Nancy Woloch Why did Nancy love this book?

A landmark in fashion history, this riveting book captures the way that generations of young women shaped campus style at elite women’s colleges, the significance of clothes among women collegians, and the impact that women college students had on style in general. Photos and text suggest the semiotics of saddle shoes and Shetland sweaters, of blazers and Bermuda shorts. Clothes on campus, the book reveals, embody status and aspiration. Cool and savvy, college women steadily affected trends in the fashion industry.

By Rebecca C. Tuite,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seven Sisters Style as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Elite and prestigious, the Seven Sisters Style is synonymous with a collective sheen of exclusivity, intelligence, and a way of dressing that would become a marker of national pride and status all over the world. From jeans and baggy shirts, bermuda shorts to blazers, soft Shetland sweaters to saddle shoes, not to mention sleek suiting, pearls, elegant suitcases and kidskin gloves for weekend trips to neighboring Ivies and crinolines, kitten heels and cashmere for parties and dances, the women of the Seven Sisters perfected a flair that spoke to a splendidly aspirational lifestyle, filled with travel and excitement. Recently, it…


Book cover of The Fashion System

Richard Thompson Ford Author Of Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History

From my list on how fashion shaped our history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a law professor and the son of a very well-dressed man. My father was a university Dean, a community organizer, a Presbyterian minister, and a social worker. But he also trained as a tailor and knew clothing—both how it is (or should be) constructed and also how it communicates. I became interested in the importance of clothing because of his influence. Then, in law, I noticed a lot of disputes that involved clothing: high school dress codes, workplace dress codes, dress codes used on public transportation. I wanted bring these two together to give a better idea of why we still fight and struggle over clothing.

Richard's book list on how fashion shaped our history

Richard Thompson Ford Why did Richard love this book?

Written by the great French semiotician, this book applies the semiotic method to symbolism of fashion.  People often say that fashion is like a language, but Barthes actually explains precisely how it symbolizes. He explains how fashion is a symbolic system that includes not only clothing itself, but also representations of clothing in text and image, fashion magazines, films, and other depictions that anchor the meaning of sartorial symbols.  

By Roland Barthes, Matthew Ward (translator), Richard Howard (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fashion System as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his consideration of the language of the fashion magazine--the structural analysis of descriptions of women's clothing by writers about fashion--Barthes gives us a brief history of semiology. At the same time, he identifies economics as the underlying reason for the luxuriant prose of the fashion magazine: "Calculating, industrial society is obliged to form consumers who don't calculate; if clothing's producers and consumers had the same consciousness, clothing would be bought (and produced) only at the very slow rate of its dilapidation."


Book cover of Sexing La Mode: Gender, Fashion and Commercial Culture in Old Regime France

Christine Adams Author Of The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

From my list on the beauty and the politics of fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child (and budding feminist), I inhaled historical fiction about queens and other formidable women. This led to my scholarly interest in female power and authority. Aristocratic women had meaningful political influence in Old Regime France through family networks and proximity to power. However, with the French Revolution of 1789, women’s exclusion from political power (and the vote) was made explicit. This led me to examine the tools women had to accumulate political and social capital, including beauty and the control of fashion. We need to take the intersection of beauty, fashion, and politics seriously to understand the operation of power in both history and the modern world. The books I chose privilege my own interest in eighteenth-century France, but have a broader significance. And they are all really fun to read!

Christine's book list on the beauty and the politics of fashion

Christine Adams Why did Christine love this book?

A major divergence in the nature of elite men's and women’s clothing styles took place in the eighteenth century that symbolized a new understanding of both femininity and French national identity. The fancy dress men wore at court transformed into the sober black suit of the male professional, while women’s clothing became increasingly ornate, fussy, and “feminine” in the modern understanding of the term. Jones links fashion and gender systems to social, cultural, and economic practices—including the rise of consumer culture—and demonstrates why the study of fashion and sexuality are far from frivolous.

By Jennifer M. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sexing La Mode as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The connection between fashion, femininity, frivolity and Frenchness has become a cliche. Yet, relegating fashion to the realm of frivolity and femininity is a distinctly modern belief that developed along with the urban culture of the Enlightenment. In eighteenth-century France, a commercial culture filled with shop girls, fashion magazines and window displays began to supplant a court-based fashion culture based on rank and distinction, stimulating debates over the proper relationship between women and commercial culture, public and private spheres, and morality and taste. Mary Wollstonecraft was one of those particularly critical of this 'vulgar' obsession with 'tawdry finery', declaring it…


Book cover of The Ten: The Stories Behind the Fashion Chassis

Uwe Westphal Author Of Ehrenfried and Cohn: Goodbye, Berlin - The Last Fashion Show

From my list on fashion and the fashion industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I published the novel Ehrenfried & Cohn in 2016 about the decimation of the Jewish fashion industry in Berlin by the Nazis. I studied at the University of Arts in Berlin and became a fashion reporter for newspapers. Later I worked as a producer and journalist for German Public Broadcasting, the BBC in London, and PBS and CBS in New York City. I currently share my time between London and Berlin writing fact books on Jewish fashion and as a lecturer on fashion history in the US.

Uwe's book list on fashion and the fashion industry

Uwe Westphal Why did Uwe love this book?

What connects the most important fashion styles over the last 80 years? The answer: the stories of those who made these clothing items fashion and trends, often globally. Lauren Cochrane illustrates lavishly this with a wealth of exactly these stories and plenty of pictures. These 10 classic fashion items are part of the universal language of style we all somehow know but not too much about them: The White T-shirt, Miniskirt, Hoodie, Jeans, Ballet flat, Breton top, Biker jacket, Little black dress, Stiletto, Trench.

Familiar, commonplace, ubiquitous - each piece has become an emblem of a certain style, carrying its own connotations and historical significance. They aren't just clothes - our social history is contained within these perfect 10 pieces. They're vessels that hold the history of style, politics, and identity: while trends may come and go, these are here to stay.

The Ten puts fashion in context. Showing how…

By Lauren Cochrane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Amazing - what perfect timing for fashion's new wave'
Barbara Hulanicki, Founder of BIBA

These 10 classic fashion items are part of the universal language of style: the White T-shirt, Miniskirt, Hoodie, Jeans, Ballet flat, Breton top, Biker jacket, Little black dress, Stiletto, Trench.

While trends may come and go, they remain symbols of perennial cool, part of a capsule collection of chic emblems that represent who we are, who we want to be and how we want to be seen.

The Ten tells the story of each item's creation, its journey to popularity, and why it matters today. These…


Book cover of Dress Code: Unlocking Fashion from the New Look to Millennial Pink

Alyssa Hardy Author Of Worn Out: How Our Clothes Cover Up Fashion's Sins

From my list on style.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fashion has been the love of my life since I was a little kid pouring over magazines and watching shows on fashion TV in the middle of the night. But I’ve always known fashion is not about clothing, its about feeling and it’s about people. That’s why I love to read the stories about people who work in fashion, who have been impacted by fashion and those who love it just as much as I do. 

Alyssa's book list on style

Alyssa Hardy Why did Alyssa love this book?

In Dress Code, fashion director Veronique Hyland makes the connection between clothing and our culture.

She argues that fashion is an integral part of all of our lives and explains the ways that it means so much more than the outfit hanging in our closets. The essays are great at helping the reader contextualize clothing in a world where social media and politics, inform the way we shop and style ourselves. 

By Veronique Hyland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dress Code as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New Yorker Magazine Best Book of 2022 * An Esquire Best Nonfiction Book of 2022 * A Town & Country Must-Read Book of 2022 * A Fashionista Summer Read

"Smart, funny, and impressively thorough."-The Cut

In the spirit of works by Jia Tolentino and Anne Helen Peterson, a smart and incisive essay collection centered on the fashion industry-its history, its importance, why we wear what we wear, and why it matters-from Elle Magazine's fashion features director.

Why does fashion hold so much power over us? Most of us care about how we dress and how we present ourselves. Style…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in clothing, fashion, and underwear?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about clothing, fashion, and underwear.

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