30 books directly related to fashion 📚

All 30 fashion books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

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

By Jennifer M. Jones

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on beauty and the politics of fashion

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Book cover of Khartoum at Night: Fashion and Body Politics in Imperial Sudan

Khartoum at Night: Fashion and Body Politics in Imperial Sudan

By Marie Grace Brown

Why this book?

Although most of the books written on the Nile focus on Egypt, the river stretches from the Mediterranean down to Khartoum, where the White Nile and the Blue Nile converge. Unfortunately, it is not a history of Khartoum’s nightlife (although there are people working on books about that now). Rather it uses the names given to women’s tobes (a popular form of dress) to recover the lost voices of ordinary women in mid-20th century Sudan – “Khartoum at Night” is one of those names. Through them, Brown finds a new and innovative way to tell the story of…

From the list:

The best books on popular culture along the Nile

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Book cover of How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century

How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century

By Lydia Edwards

Why this book?

Like my previous recommendation, How to Read a Dress is heavy on the visuals, but unlike my previous recommendation, this book gives you the language to describe and talk about what you’re seeing. If you’re ready to move beyond the basics and get a little more detailed in your study of fashion, How to Read a Dress is the perfect next step.

From the list:

The best books about the history of fashion

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Book cover of Underwear: Fashion in Detail

Underwear: Fashion in Detail

By Eleri Lynn

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about the history of fashion

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Book cover of Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier

By Colin McDowell

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

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Book cover of Irreverent

Irreverent

By Carine Roitfeld

Why this book?

When I started out working on magazines everybody told me not to look at British Vogue, (which was apparently rubbish at the time) but to save up and buy a copy of Italian or French Vogue, both of which featured stunning photographic spreads and crazily innovative ideas that were too avant-garde for the Brits. Carine Roitfeld, fashion director at French Vogue was responsible for the daring often controversial shoots that appeared in the stylish glossy for a 10-year period. Known for her sense of humour and her desire to constantly investigate new designers and unexplored territory, this massive…

From the list:

The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

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Book cover of The Women in Black

The Women in Black

By Madeleine St John

Why this book?

This sweet and sharp coming-of-age tale is set in my hometown, Sydney, in the 1950s. It centres on book-loving young poet, Lisa, who takes a summer job in the fancy frock section of a department store while waiting to find out if she’s made it into university. When I first read this novel, I felt I’d stepped right into Lisa’s shoes, finding my confidence all over again as she does, leaving the suburbs for the city. The Women in Black is a sequin-studded exploration of the importance of stories to us all – and especially for post-war migrants making new…

From the list:

The best Australian novels about bookish girls

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Book cover of Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe

Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe

By Lucy Adlington, L.J. Adlington

Why this book?

On a lighter note, this book is a wonderful journey through what everyone wore, not just the fashions but the uniforms, the make-do-and-mend, maternity wear, underclothes, knitting for the soldiers, wartime washing-day, trousers for women (shock! horror!), a kit for lady footballers and lady drivers, and how the war changed women’s clothing along with their lives. Full of illustrations, delicious cartoons, and WW1 advertisements, this book is quite simply a wonderful read, as well as wonderfully informative.

From the list:

The most readable books on World War 1

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Book cover of To Die for: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

To Die for: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

By Lucy Siegle

Why this book?

A classic book on the pain that fashion inflicts on both people and planet. This book does an excellent job of showing how the exploitation of people is inseparable from the exploitation of the biosphere. It is a searing critique of the fashion industry and its voracious appetite for evermore profit, and how this short-termist model is driving us towards disaster.

From the list:

The best books on workers’ rights in the fashion industry

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Book cover of Slave to Fashion

Slave to Fashion

By Safia Minney

Why this book?

This book is an excellent chance to hear straight from the people on the sharp end of the fashion industry. From India to Cambodia, it is full of detailed interviews with garment workers and workers’ rights advocates. As well as taking you behind the scenes of the fashion industry, it also serves as a best practise guide – from a real industry expert – for how fashion could one day be made fair and sustainable.

From the list:

The best books on workers’ rights in the fashion industry

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

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

By Alicia Drake

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

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Book cover of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

By Caroline Weber

Why this book?

This was one of the first studies of Marie Antoinette that aimed to take seriously her style as a critical political tool, one that worked both for the ill-fated French queen and against her. The study of bodily adornment, clothing, and fashion choices are now a key part of how we understand gender politics and the politics of the body both in history and in our own lives. 

Importantly, Weber situates Marie Antoinette’s understanding of the importance of her fashion in the wider context of the culture of display at Versailles, where close examination of bodies in ceremonial, sartorial, and…

From the list:

The best books to make you think about women and power in history

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

The Ten: The Stories Behind the Fashion Chassis

By Lauren Cochrane

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books about fashion and the fashion industry

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

Fashion History from the 18th to the 20th Century

By Taschen

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about the history of fashion

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

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present

By Alison Matthews David

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about the history of fashion

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

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

By Linda Przybyszewski

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books for people who want to reimagine their relationship to stuff

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Book cover of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

By Amy Spalding

Why this book?

Spalding’s book is such a fun read! It focuses on white blog writer and fashionista, Abby, who also happens to be plus-sized and wins the opportunity of a lifetime at her favorite local boutique. It’s there that she meets fellow intern and photographer Jordi Perez, a Latinx teen who makes that Los Angeles summer so much more romantic, creative, and sweeter. Add in Abby’s surprising bro-bestie Jax for some hamburger adventures and be prepared to swoon (and get hungry!) all around. It’s a great story of love and art, art and love, and how two creative spirits learn to intertwine…

From the list:

The best YA fiction on art, creativity, and chasing your dreams

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Book cover of The Heiress Effect

The Heiress Effect

By Courtney Milan

Why this book?

This is the book that made me want to write a historical romance. The protagonist, Miss Jane Fairfield, is outlandishly rich. But she can’t get married and leave her younger sister, who has epilepsy, to the well-meaning but cruel treatments recommended by their uncle, who is also their guardian. Since her money makes her an appealing target for many an impoverished rake, Jane has to work extra to become unappealing while still seeming like she’s trying to attract a man. She wears obnoxiously bright clothing, insults people with the kindest tone, and—in one desperate attempt to make a man be…

From the list:

The best historical misfits that should totally be your best friend if they were alive (or real)

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Book cover of The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker

By Jen Wang

Why this book?

When a seamstress’s outré dress design causes a scandal among the Parisian aristocracy, she loses her job – and gains a mysterious new patron, who hires her to deploy her avant-garde taste to spectacular effect and with an unlimited budget for dress after dress that sets France’s society set on fire with gossip and envy. But as “Lady Crystallia’s” notoriety escalates to a fever pitch, how long can this blossoming friendship keep its secrets? Wang’s fairytale setting is wedded to a visual sensibility full of charming characters and beautiful settings – and, above all, spectacular costume design, as the reader…

From the list:

The best queer YA graphic novels to crack your heart in half

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Book cover of How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir

How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir

By Cat Marnell

Why this book?

This one is literally about a wasted woman. It’s a fascinating non-fictional journey to be taken on by the author, who has led a fascinating, glittering New York life working for Conde Naste and other high-profile jobs. A life that she is consistently self-sabotaging through the abuse of drugs—particularly the ones prescribed to her by her father when she was a child. She is smart, sharp, interesting, interested in the world around her, and yet she continues to burn everything down time and time again.

From the list:

The best books about wasted women

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Book cover of D.V.

D.V.

By Diana Vreeland

Why this book?

Vreeland begins by telling readers: “The first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.” And that declaration sets the tone for this delightful, witty monologue, as told to Paris Review editor George Plimpton and originally published in 1984. D.V. makes you laugh out loud, and long for Paris, beauty, and really, really good lingerie.

From the list:

The best books about fashion in Paris

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Book cover of Fashion in the French Revolution

Fashion in the French Revolution

By Aileen Ribeiro

Why this book?

Ribeiro is the author of numerous books on beauty and fashion, but this is the one I always come back to. Here, she explicitly connects social and political trends to changes in dress, beginning in the 1780s to the rise of Napoleon. The analysis is straightforward and compelling, although she also acknowledges the nuance. It’s a terrific introduction to the political importance of fashion during a period when fashion could not have been more politically salient.

From the list:

The best books on beauty and the politics of fashion

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Book cover of Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take On the Global Factory

Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take On the Global Factory

By Miriam Ching Yoon Louie

Why this book?

This is such an inspirational book from the heart of the anti-globalisation movement in 2001. It documents the lives of immigrant women working in underground sweatshops not just in the USA but right across the world. It resolutely stands as a monument against the ‘down trodden’ woman stereotype and welcomes you into an often ignored world where workers are fighting back against some of the biggest corporations on the planet.

From the list:

The best books on workers’ rights in the fashion industry

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Book cover of Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs

Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs

By Bill Cunningham

Why this book?

When Bill (William John) Cunningham (1929-2016), son of an Irish Catholic family from Boston, moved to New York at the tender age of 19 in 1948, it became the life-defining step in his career as probably the most famous fashion photographer in the metropolis. He had been interested in fashion from an early age and sold his first hats. After returning from military service in Korea in 1953, he began photographing fashion and writing articles for Women's Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune.

It is no exaggeration to say that Cunningham's fashion sense and photography quickly shaped a new…

From the list:

The best books about fashion and the fashion industry

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Book cover of The Value of Nothing

The Value of Nothing

By John Weitz

Why this book?

Fashion is, without any question, a matter of one's own taste. Or so one would think. But no other successful fashion designer has ever analysed and observed the New York fashion world of the 1950s to mid-60s as mercilessly and literarily as John Weitz did in his novel published in 1970. With his clearly English-influenced men’s designs he kept his distance from New York’s high society. Perhaps this was due to his unusual life path.

John Weitz, born to a famous Berlin Jewish family. To guarantee his education, in 1936 his parents send him to London. After his A-levels, John…

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The best books about fashion and the fashion industry

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Book cover of Erté Graphics

Erté Graphics

By Erté

Why this book?

Dover (one of my favourite publishers) has the knack of knowing good art when they see it. This is one of my favourite books, slimline though it happens to be - showing the genius imagination, and fashion illustration, of “RT (his real initials)” at its most luscious. 

We’re treated to: the alphabet; numbers; playing cards; gems; and The Seasons - albeit, not in the forms you might think - but in the glorious, arresting, Art-Nouveau style that was Erte’s trademark. A feast for the eyes, and above all - just the sort of fun we need, to motivate us, in…

From the list:

The best fashion, art and science books

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Book cover of In My Fashion

In My Fashion

By Bettina Ballard

Why this book?

Ballard was the Paris editor for American Vogue between the wars, before returning to New York to help run the glossy. In 1960, she published her memoir, In My Fashion, a wonderful snapshot not only of the fashion industry during the European Modernist era, but also of life as a young single American woman in Paris at its most Paris-y. You don’t have to be a fashion lover to love this book.

From the list:

The best books about fashion in Paris

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Book cover of Fashion Metropolis Berlin 1836 - 1939: The Story of the Rise and Destruction of the Jewish Fashion Industry

Fashion Metropolis Berlin 1836 - 1939: The Story of the Rise and Destruction of the Jewish Fashion Industry

By Uwe Westphal

Why this book?

Uwe Westphal has spent many years researching and writing about the Jewish contribution to the Berlin fashion industry between 1836 - 1939.  This is a story that has never been told before. Jewish entrepreneurs invented ready-to-wear, mass-produced, fashionable clothing. By the early 1900s, Berlin was the hub of world fashion with the majority of clothing firms being Jewish-owned. In 1933 the Nazis swiftly foreclosed and “Aryanized” these businesses and their owners fled into exile or were murdered. After 1945, the now non-Jewish fashion firms, which had taken over their predecessors’ companies, enjoyed a tremendous increase in worldwide sales due to…

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The best books to read if you are visiting Berlin and love history

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Book cover of Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant

Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant

By Mary Quant

Why this book?

A totally unpretentious, rollicking first-hand account, of the events that spawned the mythology of the Swinging Sixties of which Mary Quant was an integral part. Having grown up with Quant as a fashion hero, I was thrilled to collaborate with her on a retail beauty video in the 1990s and researched her professional background by reading this autobiography. (first published in 1966, and recently re-issued to coincide with the Quant exhibition at the V&A last year). Credited with inventing hot pants and the mini skirt, purple lipstick, and striped underwear, this old-fashioned biography recounts how the music and fashion that…

From the list:

The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

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Book cover of Buffalo

Buffalo

By Ray Petri

Why this book?

Throughout the 1980’s new style magazines like The Face, ID and Arena regularly succeeded in presenting the holy grail of fashion photography, with one man responsible for more iconic imagery than anyone else.  Ray Petri was a genius stylist who invented a ragga, post-punk identity that operated under the banner of Buffalo, a gang of like-minded creatives that included photographers, models, and fashion stylists who produced ground-breaking work together.  The Buffalo collective exuded an attitude that exalted the street and rejected high-status fashion, taking inspiration from the Caribbean rude boys who looked effortlessly cool in teenage gangs. 

His…

From the list:

The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

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