The most recommended books about fashion designers

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to fashion designers, and here are their favorite fashion designer books.
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Book cover of Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion

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 have any interest in the supermodel era of fashion, Champagne Supernovas is a great look into a piece of it.

The book gives you an inside look at the style scene in the 1990s highlighting moments with Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and more. It details some of the most powerful people’s personal struggles, and how the culture they had been thrust into only made it worst. It’s glamorous, sure, but the exploration of the underbelly of popular culture makes it that much more exciting to read. 

By Maureen Callahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Terrifically exciting and fun” (Publishers Weekly), Champagne Supernovas is “a lucid, smoothly executed look at a pivotal decade in the legacy of American fashion” (Kirkus Reviews) as told through the lives of Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen—the three iconic personalities who defined the time.

Veteran pop culture journalist Maureen Callahan takes us back to the pivotal style moment of the early 1990s—when supermodel glamazons gave way to heroin chic, when the alternative became the mainstream, and when fashion suddenly became the cradle for the most exciting artistic and cultural innovations of the age. Champagne Supernovas gives you the…


Book cover of Jean Paul Gaultier

Emma Baxter-Wright Author Of Chanel Paperscapes: The Book That Transforms Into a Work of Art

From my list on the provocative talents of the fashion industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a failed fashion designer, the history of twentieth-century fashion, represented both visually and in the form of narrative text, make up the bulk of my ever-increasing library of fashion books. In order to write about fashion, either as a biographer of one of the great designers or cutting-edge photographers, it is crucial to acknowledge what was deemed as desirable in a previous generation and a previous context. As Yves Saint Laurent famously said, "Fashion fades, Style is eternal." Fashion in its broader sense has never existed in a vacuum and an understanding of fashion history and fashion imagery, that so clearly evokes a specific era, is the very best way to appreciate the cyclical nature of this creative business.  

Emma's book list on the provocative talents of the fashion industry

Emma Baxter-Wright Why did Emma love this book?

In his early career, Gaultier was a regular visitor to London and took inspiration from Soho’s indie art school clubs, Billy’s, The Blitz, The Wag. As a fashion student at St. Martins at the time, we were often on the same dance floor together and I identified with his rebellious attitude, which continued to challenge the fashion status quo and never waned. Glossy catwalk pictures of a distinct tribe of models, (not the usual crowd of supermodels) original design sketches, quotes from JPG the "enfant terrible" of Parisian fashion who famously broke all the rules on gender in the 1990s, and an intelligent text by Colin McDowell, a renowned fashion historian, all contribute to a wonderful book that brilliantly captures the truly unique talent of this designer. 

By Colin McDowell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jean-Paul Gaultier is fashion's polymath. His name is a byword for outrageous, witty and even revolutionary fashion. As a designer, a TV star and gay icon he has used his subversive sense of humour to make us question our attitudes towards sex, social values and cultural morality. But it would be wrong to assume that he is merely the court jester of the international fashion world. He has never failed to produce collections of total originality that inspire as much as they shock. He has been designing for twenty years, and never once has he followed the fashion: he has…


Book cover of Bad Penny Blues

Mike Gerrard Author Of Strip till Dead

From my list on crime set in London.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my freelance career as a travel writer, though I now also write about drinks. While living in London I worked for a while at the men’s magazine, Mayfair, and around that time went out for several months with a woman who was a stripper. I didn’t know that when we met, so judged her by her personality not her profession. One of the magazine’s models was murdered, and one of the staff questioned by police. He was totally innocent. I wanted to write the kind of book I like reading, bringing together those two storylines to create a fictional version of a very real part of London life.

Mike's book list on crime set in London

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

I absolutely loved this book, set in the London of the 1960s. It starts with the murder of a prostitute and takes you into the shady world of Soho with its drugs and clubs, its swingers and its singers. A young PC is assigned to work with the CID to catch the killer, as he found the body. The writing is vivid and it appeals as the murder, though central, is only part of a broader picture of the London of that era.

By Cathi Unsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping crime novel inspired by the "Jack the Stripper" killings in 1960s London.

Bad Penny Blues is the latest gripping crime fiction from Cathi Unsworth, London's undisputed queen of noir. Set in late 1950s and early 1960s London, it is loosely based on the West London "Jack the Stripper" killings that rocked the city. The narrative follows police officer Pete Bradley, who investigates the serial killings of a series of prostitutes, and, in a parallel story, Stella, part of the art and fashion worlds of 1960s "Swinging London," who is haunted by visions of the murdered women.


Book cover of The Dressmaker

D.M. Pelletier Author Of Cold Dresses

From my list on exposing the dark side of fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the world of fashion for more than a decade. Back in 2012, a serious bike accident left me incapacitated for the best part of six months. By the time I recovered from my injuries, a chance encounter with a Russian dressmaker would change everything; I decided to learn how to sew. I sat in front of my sewing machine, made my own clothes, and expanded into making dresses for my friends. Since I’ve always enjoyed reading gritty mysteries, it was only natural for me to incorporate my art into my writing. Cold Dresses was born out of a passion for fashion and dark thrillers. 

D.M.'s book list on exposing the dark side of fashion

D.M. Pelletier Why did D.M. love this book?

Okay, let’s start with stats: I love the story so much that I’ve read the book twice and watched the movie adaptation three times (Kate Winslet is wonderful, as always.) This will forever remain my first foray into “haute couture noir.”

Tilly is one of those characters that speaks to me: a gifted dressmaker with a troubled past. Her beautiful dresses not only arouse competition and envy but also cause old resentments to surface. As for Tilly herself, her mind is soon set on a darker design: sweet revenge on those who wronged her.

The writing is lush, and the novel is viciously funny. 

By Rosalie Ham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, and Hugo Weaving
 
After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only…


Book cover of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Claudia Joseph Author Of Diana: A Life in Dresses

From my list on inspirational fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was a child, growing up in Gloucestershire, England, I have been passionate about fashion and made and designed my own clothes. I originally wanted to be a fashion designer but feared my drawing wasn’t good enough so studied journalism at the London College of Fashion and went to work for Condé Nast Publications. I later became a newspaper journalist but my love of fashion never went away - I did a millinery course with designer Edwina Ibbotson and a bag designing course at my alma mater. Since then, I have written many articles on fashion and the Royals as well as a number of books.

Claudia's book list on inspirational fashion

Claudia Joseph Why did Claudia love this book?

After the death of Lee Alexander McQueen in 2010, I was fortunate to meet his sister Janet and do an interview with her for the Mail on Sunday.

I was later invited to the launch of the V&A’s exhibition Savage Beauty alongside Lee’s brothers and sisters. This book reminds me of Lee’s extraordinary talent and a very special evening.

By Andrew Bolton, Solve Sundsbo (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating the astounding creativity and originality of designer Alexander McQueen, who relentlessly questioned and confronted the requisites of fashion

"An authoritative and moving insight into the legacy of the British designer."-Carola Long, Financial Times

"McQueen's brilliance is celebrated in this sumptuous tome."-Harper's Bazaar

"Excellent."-Huffington Post

Arguably the most influential, imaginative, and provocative designer of his generation, Alexander McQueen both challenged and expanded fashion conventions to express ideas about race, class, sexuality, religion, and the environment. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty examines the full breadth of the designer's career, from the start of his fledgling label to the triumphs of his own…


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 Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War

Merryn Corcoran Author Of The Silent Village

From my list on for lovers of French and Italian history, romance, and mystery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in New Zealand and now live half the year in London and the other half on the border of The French and Italian Riviera. I am fascinated by the history of the buildings and the color of the European lifestyle. I love to write novels about the past and how that past relates to scenarios of present day. I am keen to tell the untold stories of WW2 that are based on fact. Then weave them with embellishment from my own imagination.     

Merryn's book list on for lovers of French and Italian history, romance, and mystery

Merryn Corcoran Why did Merryn love this book?

I have always adored the Chanel brand and have been intrigued by Coco Chanel’s childhood story and her rise to fame. Then to read the back story of her activities during World War 2 in Paris, I was gutted. The author depicts her as a full-on collaborator. All done in a bid to save her fortune, but at the expense of others. In this explosive narrative the author pieces together Chanel’s hidden years, her relationships with top-ranking Nazis, and her anti-Semitism.  

By Hal Vaughan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sleeping with the Enemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This explosive narrative reveals for the first time the shocking hidden years of Coco Chanel’s life: her collaboration with the Nazis in Paris, her affair with a master spy, and her work for the German military intelligence service and Himmler’s SS.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was the high priestess of couture who created the look of the modern woman. By the 1920s she had amassed a fortune and went on to create an empire. But her life from 1941 to 1954 has long been shrouded in rumor and mystery, never clarified by Chanel or her many biographers. Hal Vaughan exposes the…


Book cover of The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish

Amanda Sullivan Author Of Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist's Guide to Getting -- and Staying -- Organized

From my list on to reimagine your relationship to stuff.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a professional organizer since 1999, I’ve realized that the problem isn’t so much that we are disorganized, but that we are out-matched. We have too much stuff, it is too cheap and we are too busy and we can’t keep up. If you really want to stay organized, you have to examine your relationship to stuff. Why we want what we want and buy what we buy. Less but better! 

Amanda's book list on to reimagine your relationship to stuff

Amanda Sullivan Why did Amanda love this book?

Przybryszewski, a history professor at Notre Dame, had me from the start where she says she’s probably the only person to have spoken to the Supreme court wearing a ’suit that won a blue ribbon at a country fair.” Taking American fashion back to the Home Economics taught at Land Grant Universities and subsequently, at high schools, Przybryszewski argues that knowing how to sew was not just a practical skill, but also made us better consumers.

Making our own clothes might have seemed like drudgery, but it was empowering and now that most of us don’t have those skills, we’re literally slaves to fashion…  we can’t tell high-quality from low quality, we can’t put in pockets when we need them… and nothing, nothing is ever our exact size. This is a book that will make you want to learn to make your own clothes… or at least cast a far…

By Linda Przybyszewski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a glance down any street in America quickly reveals, American women have forgotten how to dress. We chase fads, choose inappropriate materials and unattractive cuts, and waste energy tottering in heels when we could be moving gracefully. Quite simply, we lack the fashion know-how we need to dress professionally and flatteringly.As historian and expert dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski reveals in The Lost Art of Dress , it wasn't always like this. In the first half of the twentieth century, a remarkable group of women,the so-called Dress Doctors,taught American women how to stretch each yard of fabric and dress well on…


Book cover of May I Come In?: Discovering the World in Other People's Houses

Christophe Pourny Author Of The Furniture Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Identify, Restore & Care for Furniture

From my list on loving where you live.

Why am I passionate about this?

I opened my first history book in school at 6 and have been fascinated by how people lived since then. I found the evolution of furniture, interiors, decorations, exteriors, and everything that relates to how we live of the utmost importance if we want to know who we are and why. I am the son of antique dealers, growing up in France, so furniture is my principal domain of expertise, but I always put it in relation to the epoch they are from and the people who used them. I became the go-to of Martha Stewart for antiques and furniture restoration and have been featured in TV shows and magazines regularly.

Christophe's book list on loving where you live

Christophe Pourny Why did Christophe love this book?

I admire Wendy’s sense of intimacy and ability to enter people’s private lives through their interiors. I find her sense of style timeless. I love the intimacy level she connects with a room and its owners. I think she can see life and excitement at every level.

I know her personally and am very fond of her love for interiors, of original and unique living space as well as the way she has to find them.

By Wendy Goodman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked May I Come In? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Emma Baxter-Wright Author Of Chanel Paperscapes: The Book That Transforms Into a Work of Art

From my list on the provocative talents of the fashion industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a failed fashion designer, the history of twentieth-century fashion, represented both visually and in the form of narrative text, make up the bulk of my ever-increasing library of fashion books. In order to write about fashion, either as a biographer of one of the great designers or cutting-edge photographers, it is crucial to acknowledge what was deemed as desirable in a previous generation and a previous context. As Yves Saint Laurent famously said, "Fashion fades, Style is eternal." Fashion in its broader sense has never existed in a vacuum and an understanding of fashion history and fashion imagery, that so clearly evokes a specific era, is the very best way to appreciate the cyclical nature of this creative business.  

Emma's book list on the provocative talents of the fashion industry

Emma Baxter-Wright Why did Emma love this book?

Meticulously researched by brilliant fashion journalist Alicia Drake, this book charts the bitchy, high octane rivalry of two mega egos of the industry, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. As a journalist working today in an era of horrendous consumerism known as ‘fast fashion’ this detailed account of how both men were instrumental in shifting the established codes of a refined haute couture system into a faster-paced ready-to-wear market in the 1970s is illuminating. It also documents the evolution of couturier as a celebrity, detailing how YSL used an image of himself to promote his aftershave in 1971, a revolutionary idea of self-promotion at the time, and now a very necessary part of the ‘selfie’ obsessed generation of creatives working in fashion.  

By Alicia Drake,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Beautiful Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1950s Paris, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld were friends, the rising stars of the fashion world. But by the late sixties, the city was invaded by a new mood of liberation and hedonism, and dominated by intrigue, infidelities, addiction and parties. Each designer created his own mesmerizing world, so vivid and seductive that people were drawn to the power, charisma and fame, and it was to make them bitter rivals. "The Beautiful Fall" is a dazzling expose of an era and the story of the two men who were its essence and who remain its most singular survivors.