Couture is a world of glamour, history, and tradition. For more than a century, since its origins in Paris by english ‘couturier’ Charles Frederick Worth, couture has managed to remain the most luxurious way of fashion making. Here, 10 books that every haute couture lover should add to their reading list (in no particular order).
1) Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Grace Coddington’s celebration of fashion has danced along its cutting edge for over 30 years. Abandoning a highly lucrative career as a leading model on the 60s London scene, Coddington signed on in 1968 as a junior fashion editor at British “Vogue.” She quickly established herself on the other side of the camera, coordinating photo shoots with David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Helmut Newton, Sarah Moon, and the eccentric Guy Bourdin. A close working relationship with royal photographer Norman Parkinson produced a series of startlingly vibrant location shoots that have come to be considered classics. At British “Vogue,” Coddington also introduced the sweeping narrative epic, a familiar feature of her work nowadays at American “Vogue,” where she has been creative director for the past 14 years.
2) WWD: 100 years, 100 designers by Bridget Foley
WWD: 100 Years, 100 Designers tells the story of fashion over the last century through the lens of Women’s Wear Daily, and celebrates 100 designers who have had a powerful impact on what we wear and how we live. Rich with the work of acclaimed photographers and artists, WWD: 100 Years, 100 Designers not only visually chronicles 100 designers who influenced fashion during the first 100 years of Women’s Wear Daily, but also is a testament to the perspective and revolution of one of the most respected publications in the industry.
3) Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style by Andre Leon Talley
In this intimate volume, longtime editor and friend André Leon Talley recounts de la Renta’s journey through nearly 70 iconic dresses, mainly made for private clients, accompanied by fascinating stories of the exquisite craftsmanship and the legendary friends that brought each gown to life. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, de la Renta left for Madrid at nineteen to study art, where he rose to prominence as a sketch artist for newspapers and fashion houses. From his apprenticeship under Cristóbal Balenciaga to his eponymous collections, the designer’s simple lines elevated with a flamenco dancer’s flourish reflect his deep connection to his roots and his commitment to transcendence through beautiful garments.
4) The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever by Teri Agins
The time when “fashion” was defined by French designers whose clothes could be afforded only by elite has ended. Now designers take their cues from mainstream consumers and creativity is channeled more into mass-marketing clothes than into designing them. In , reporter Teri Agins astutely explores this seminal change, laying bare all aspects of the fashion industry from manufacturing, retailing, and licensing to image making and financing.
5) Paris A La Mode. A Voyage Of Discovery by Celia Bertin
Celia Bertin was an American fashion editor working in Paris until WWII broke out. “A Voyage of Discovery” into the secrets of Paris dressmaking establishments. A fascinating look behind the scenes of the world of haute couture as the author interviews with the masters themselves and studies their procedures, financial structures and subsidiary trades.
6) Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (2 Volume Set) by The Kyoto Costume Institute
Clothes define people. A person’s clothing, whether it’s a sari, kimono, or business suit, is an essential key to his or her culture, class, personality, or even religion. The Kyoto Costume Institute recognizes the importance of understanding clothing sociologically, historically, and artistically. Founded in 1978, the KCI holds one of the world’s most extensive clothing collections and has curated many exhibitions worldwide. With an emphasis on Western women’s clothing, the KCI has amassed a wide range of historical garments, underwear, shoes, and fashion accessories dating from the 18th century to the present day.
7) Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology by Andrew Bolton
The complex and often ambiguous relationship between the hand crafted and the machine made is examined in this intriguing look at the ever-changing world of fashion and taste. Manus x Machina traces styles of dress from one-of-a-kind works and haute couture created by highly skilled artisans, through the introduction of industrial manufacturing, to extraordinary recent technological advancements applied to high fashion, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, and computer-generated weaving and patterns. The oppositional relationship between the machine, as representative of democracy and mass production, and the hand, as the hallmark of elitism, is explored in its many facets in this fascinating book.
8) Haute Couture Ateliers: The Artisans of Fashion by Hélène Farnault
Haute Couture Ateliers takes the reader on a tour of fashion’s backstage, inhabited not only by exceptional designers but also by lace makers, weavers, textile finishers, pleaters, jewelers, feather workers, leather makers, embroiderers, and many other specialized craftspeople. With painstaking attention to detail and exceptional workmanship, they can create anything and everything a designer can imagine. Hélène Farnault, France’s leading authority on haute couture crafts, explains the rarefied hierarchies and mysteries of these extraordinary artisans, bringing talented milliners and trimming experts into the spotlight.
9) The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by
10) Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words by Pamela Golbin
Late legendary couturiers of modern fashion speaking eloquently about life, design, and inspiration. Vionnet, Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent, McQueen—these names define haute couture, and long after the designers have passed away, their influence on fashion continues to be profound. In an exceptional compilation of the original words of these couturiers, Couture Confessions provides a unique and in-depth look at the lives and work of these fashion icons.
Photo credit: Dolce & Gabbana, Fall 2016