In the midst of a sparkling spring season and looking (desperately!) forward to summertime, it’s time to get you reading list ready. Whether you’ll be lounging by the pool, burying your toes in the sand, or enjoying a shady breeze at the park—your day won’t be complete without an intriguing read. From books that will put you on course for style superstardom to the shoe lover’s bible, and even the best coffee table toppers, here are our top picks for fashion biographies. The best and most inspiring stories are true ones, so pick one (or all!) of the fabulous finds and spend your next lazy afternoon really getting to know your style icon.
By Jerry Oppenheimer
Every season, as all eyes fixate on the unveiling of new designs gracing runways in fashion capitals around the globe, one can’t help but steal a wandering glance at Anna Wintour, poised perfectly behind opaque sunglasses in her reserved spot on the unobtainable front row. Disaffected and maintaining an unfaltering expression, it’s impossible to determine her impressions by a mere observation. In a fitting title, Front Row reveals far more than our ever-composed editor in the tale of her journey to unparalleled power over the fashion industry. Her influences affect trends, designers, retail, and wholesale—the entire push and pull of a $200 billion dollar industry. Front Row chronicles her career from its beginnings in London to her two decade (and counting) reign as Editor in Chief of American Vogue as well as a raw and exposed look into her personal life and the evolution of this notorious powerhouse along the way.
From $20; available at amazon.com
By Jean Stein
First published in 1982, Edie: American Girl is not only an international best seller but regarded as a classic book about the revolutionary 1960’s making it a must-read for any Pop Art passionate fashionista. Actress, socialite, model—Edie Sedgwick is one of the most notable fashion icons and “it-girls” of the swinging sixties. She is often remembered by her connections with Andy Warhol’s Studio 54 and folk legend Bob Dylan, both infamous partiers of the time. A sudden superstar, Edie grabbed the attention of the public in an instant; and like many similar stories of the young, glamorous, and often reckless, her moment in the spotlight came to an untimely end. Edie dictates the decade’s hologram of emotions, the glittery allure of sex, drugs, music, and fame was met by desperation and emptiness within. Family, friends, lovers, and rivals all weigh in on the haunting biography. The Atlanta Journal says it best, “What makes this book so unusual, unique almost, is the picture it paints of the New York counterculture. No one has ever done it better.”
$13; available at Indigo
By Elsa Schiaparelli
One of history’s most influential designers and pioneers of fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli, was a revolutionary of women’s style in the 1930’s. The Italian designer was hailed by press as “one of the rare innovators” of her time. As a close friend to equally revolutionary artists including Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, and Christian Berard, inspiration was endless for her revered collections. Women flocked to Schiaparelli’s Parisian salon and her designs rivaled those of Coco Chanel’s. First published in 1954, just as she was closing her legendary shop, Shocking Life is the autobiographical account of famous firsts in design, famous clientele, wartime fashion, and inspiring motivations that sparked her rise to fame. On her own success, Schiaparelli writes, “The way is open to everybody who has the will, the ambition, the respect for work, and the IT.” What motivation for those who wish to follow in her footsteps. A testament to the designer’s mark on fashion history is the upcoming Metropolitan Museum exhibit Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, which “explores the striking affinities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, two Italian designers from different eras.”
From $10; available at barnesandnoble.com
By Alicia Drake
Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris; the intriguing subtitle sums up this dual biography of two dynamic French designers, their biter rivalry, an explosive era, and their rise to success. From childhood to household name, their lives are examined with a focus on the decade that marked their forever impact on the fashion industry. Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent became serendipitous dictators of style, rivaling over muses, models, and famous Parisian socialites along the way. Publisher’s Weekly raves the book “stitches together the lives, loves, personalities and obsessions of two iconic designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, into a work as finely detailed as any outfit they ever sent down a runway.” A riveting read, Beautiful Fall achieves the daunting task of living up to these designers’ legacies as they navigated a French fashion scene full of glittering parties and striking celebrities to produce iconic collections that serve as unforgettable inspiration to modern design.
From $15; available at amazon.com
By Diana Vreeland
Defining accomplishments in her career mark her iconic life; first as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar then at the helm of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland reigned over two authorities of fashion for more than thirty years and still inspires the industry today. Known for her outlandish personality, (those creative types, right?!) Vreeland has an unparalleled passion, which comes across in her charming and witty style of story telling as if she were catching up with you, an old friend, over tea. Of course, it’s assumed Vreeland took a few creative liberties in her “autobiographical-fiction” when she muses of memories like “she and her younger sister were the last ones to see The Mona Lisa before it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, that she helped cure Jack Nicholson’s back pain, and that she watched Charles Lindbergh fly over her house during his most famous flight,” as highlighted by our friends at CollegeFashion.net.
$17; available at target.com