Fashion sense: Perkins’ Recommended Reads

Fashion is a reflection of the times we live in and memories from our past. From personal expression and identity to fashion empires, here are books on fashion across genres.

Collage of five book covers showcasing fashion sense booklist

I have very little sense of fashion or style, and it is a struggle almost every day to manage to pull an outfit together. The COVID-19 shutdown was actually a blessing in that most of the time I could just throw on some leggings and an oversized shirt and be done with it. Yet, despite my lack of interest in my own fashion choices, I love to watch Project Runway and Making the Cut, two popular reality shows about finding the next big designer. How the competing designers come up with and execute their ideas within the parameters of each challenge is fascinating to watch. I would probably never wear most of the designs, but that doesn’t make me any less interested in watching. Recently, I watched the Netflix series Halston, which I thoroughly enjoyed and it sparked the idea for this list. So clearly, there is something about fashion that intrigues me.

Fashion is the part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.”

Diana Vreeland, Fashion Editor and Columnist

When we think of the word fashion, images of long, lanky models walking down a catwalk come to mind, or a photographic spread in a glossy magazine. While this is certainly part of it, fashion really is so much more. It is a reflection of the times we live in and can bring up memories from our past. Fashion brings to mind certain historical periods or events. It is used as a form of personal expression or identity. So please enjoy this month’s list which contains books about fashion in many genres: fiction, historical fiction, biography, history. There should be something of interest for die-hard fashionistas or those of us more fashion-challenged just looking for a good read. Enjoy!

Digital book (DB), braille (BR), large print (LT), and audio described videos (DVD) copies of these titles are available from the Perkins Library or the Worcester Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.

Prepared by Nancy Gahagan
Recording Studio Manager
Perkins Library

Banners of Silk

by Rosalind Laker18559
DB #, Available as BARD download

A rags-to-riches saga of a nineteenth-century Parisian waif who designs her way up in the fashion industry. Along the way, she befriends a penniless but ambitious Englishman, also destined for success, and enters a grand affair with the Emperor’s godson. 1983.

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The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History

by Robin Givhan
DB 82124, Available as BARD download

Fashion critic details the November 28, 1973, fashion-show competition at the Palace of Versailles between American and French designers, and the events leading up to that night. Briefly sketches the history of American and French fashion and discusses the American competitors, including Bill Blass, Halston, and Anne Klein. 2015.

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The Chanel Sisters

by Judithe Little
DB 102615, Available as BARD download

Abandoned by their family at a young age, Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel have grown up under the guidance of nuns preparing them for simple lives as the wives of tradesmen or shopkeepers. But the Chanel sisters know they are destined for something better. Unrated. 2020.

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The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir

by André Leon Talley
DB 99833, Available as BARD download

Former editor-at-large for Vogue shares his experiences as a black man in the fashion industry. Describes personalities he has had personal relationships and worked with over the years, including Anna Wintour, Andy Warhol, and Karl Lagerfeld. Unrated. 2020.

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The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good

by Elizabeth L. Cline
DB 96266, Available as BARD download

Research on the impact of fashion and how to leverage everyday fashion choices to build an ethical, sustainable wardrobe without sacrificing style. Includes supplemental material. Unrated. 2019.

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Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words

by Pamela Golbin
DB 87087, Available as BARD download

A collection of faux interviews with deceased fashion designers, using writings, correspondence, and other media from the designers’ own times to answer the questions posed. Among the designers included are Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Madame Grès, Pierre Balmain, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and others. 2016.

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Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem

by Daniel R. Ray
DB 96110, Available as BARD download

Autobiography of fashion designer who disrupted the industry with his focus on black Americans. Discusses growing up in Harlem, avoiding the trap of drugs, building his Harlem-based business, and becoming a fashion icon while dressing prominent clients such as Beyoncé and LL Cool J. Unrated. 2019.

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Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs

by Bill Cunningham, with Preface by Hilton Als
DB 92268, Available as BARD download

Posthumously published memoir by New York Times photographer who covered fashion and high society. Describes growing up in Boston with parents who discouraged any interest in the arts, learning the millinery business, moving to photography, working in New York, and more. Some strong language. 2018.

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First Sight: A Novel

by Danielle Steel
DB 77084, BR 20184, LT 15485, Available as BARD download

Fashion designer Timmie O’Neill operates a successful company but is lonely after the death of her child and subsequent divorce. While in Paris she falls in love with Dr. Jean-Charles Vernier, who doesn’t deny his attraction to her despite being married. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2013.

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History of International Fashion

by Didier Grumbach
DB 82797, Available as BARD download

Co-founder of the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche house surveys the history of international fashion, beginning in France in the late 1700s and continuing until the early twenty-first century. Profiles prominent designers, patrons, and stylists. Discusses changing trends, historic shows, and business models. 2014.

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House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed

by Sara Gay Forden
DB 53672, Available as BARD download

Traces the business fortunes of Italy’s Gucci family from its first leather shop in Florence in 1921 to the loss of the fashion conglomerate in the 1990s. Investigates events suggesting that personal and legal squabbles of the dysfunctional second and third generations culminated in the 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci. 2000.

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House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row

by Lance Richardson
DB 91847, Available as BARD download

Biography of brothers Tommy and David Nutter, artists who received recognition thanks to their work with celebrities, including the Beatles. Pays particular attention to Tommy, who created his own tailoring firm on London’s iconic Savile Row, and the ways the brothers’ sexual orientation influenced their respective art. Unrated. 2018.

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I’ll Drink to That

by Betty Halbreich

DBC 8615, Available as BARD Download

In this memoir of a long-time personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, fashion guru Betty Halbreich sizes up her own life and in the process, helps the reader to diagnose their own flaws and embrace their own beauty. Some descriptions of sex. 2014.

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IM: A Memoir

by Isaac Mizrahi

DB 94275, LT 26630, Available as BARD Download

Growing up gay in a sheltered Syrian Jewish Orthodox family, Isaac Mizrahi had unique talents that drew him into fashion and later into celebrity circles that included Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Wintour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Meryl Streep, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few. In I.M., Isaac offers a poignant, candid, and touching look back on his life. He delves into his lifelong battles with weight, insomnia, and depression, and tells what it was like to be an out gay man witnessing the ravaging effects of AIDS. Brimming with intimate details and inimitable wit, Isaac’s elegant memoir reveals not just the glamour of his years, but the grit beneath the glitz. 2019

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Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon

by James Sullivan

DB 64134, Available as BARD Download

Traces the evolution of denim jeans from everyday nineteenth-century workmen’s wear to a high-priced, bestselling, twenty-first-century symbol of American culture. Discusses the mass production of jeans by Levi Strauss, their social promotion through Hollywood movies, and their eventual worldwide popularity. Some strong language. 2006.

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The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel

by Jeanne Mackin

DB 95612, Available as BARD Download

Paris, 1938. Recently widowed Lily travels to Paris to see her brother Charlie, and he insists on buying her a Chanel couture dress for her birthday. But she desires a Schiaparelli and soon befriends the designer. As war looms, the feud between Chanel and Schiaparelli rages. Unrated. 2019.

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Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de la Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent

by Christopher Petkanas

DB 92486, Available as BARD Download

Journalist presents an oral history of the life and times of flamboyant designer Loulou de La Falaise (1947-2011), muse to Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008). Includes reminiscences by other designers, artists, socialites, models, and rock stars. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. 2018.

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The Meaning of Sunglasses: And a Guide to Almost All Things Fashionable

by Hadley Freeman

DB 69293, Available as BARD Download

Fashion editor and columnist examines women’s obsession with fashion and beauty. In short, satirical essays Freeman evaluates the various available types of blouses, exercise clothes, animal prints, accessories, swimsuits, and shoes, and explains what your choices say about you. Some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2008.

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Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

by Robert Lacey

DBC 2828, Available as BARD Download

Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century’s largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world’s most famous names. Her relentless ambition turned the business of modeling into one of the most glamorous and desired professions, helping to convert her stable of beautiful faces into millionaire superstars. 2016.

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My Journey

by Donna Karan

DB 83002, Available as BARD Download

Autobiography of fashion designer who grew up the daughter of a tailor and a fashion model. Describes personal relationships, her work with Anne Klein–at whose house she became head designer at the age of twenty-five–launching her own line, and her day-to-day work. Foreword by Barbra Streisand. Unrated. 2015.

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Nine Women, One Dress: A Novel

by Jane L. Rosen

DB 85065, LT 21114, Available as BARD Download

The story of one little black dress and how it affects the women who wear it. It begins with Natalie, a saleswoman at Bloomingdale’s department store, but the dress also impacts a model, a movie star, and a lonely assistant in love with her boss, among others. Some violence and some descriptions of sex. 2016.

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

by Phil Knight

DB 85176, Available as BARD Download

Founder of sporting equipment brand Nike chronicles his journey as he built the company, starting with a $50 investment from his father in 1962 to a valuation of billions of dollars in 2016. Discusses business successes and challenges, including those compounded by his innate shyness. Bestseller. 2016.

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Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War

by Hal Vaughan

DB 74339, Available as BARD Download

American diplomat and foreign correspondent uses overseas archives to document French fashion designer Coco Chanel’s collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. Discusses Chanel’s childhood; emergence on the social scene as a couture perfume maker, and mistress of titled men; anti-Semitism; and involvement with the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS). 2011.

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Spring Collection

by Judith Krantz

DB 42040, Available as BARD Download

Ex-model Justine Loring now has her own modeling agency, and three of her models have just been chosen to star in the first showing of clothes by new designer Marco Lombardi. Lombardi is backed by Jacques Necker, the father Justine has never met. Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1996.

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Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

by Caroline Weber.

DB 64284, Available as BARD Download

Examines the role of style in the life and execution of the Austrian-born Marie Antoinette, who arrived in France in 1770 at fourteen to marry the heir to the Bourbon throne. Discusses her break with court tradition and her preferences for riding trousers, playful shepherdess outfits, and elaborate hairdressing. 2006.

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A Woman of Style

by Colin McDowell

DB 36147, Available as BARD Download

As a small-town girl in England, Constance dreams of a life of art and beauty, and she jumps at the chance to stay with her aunt in London. Working for a clothes designer, Constance develops an eye for fashion, but she is hopelessly naive when it comes to men. After she impulsively marries an immature Italian playboy, Constance realizes she must rely on her fashion skills to survive. Some strong language, some violence, and descriptions of sex. 1992.

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Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us

by Rachelle Bergstein 

DB 86281, Available as BARD Download

Author of Brilliance and Fire (DB 85802) details the development of women’s shoe fashions in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Discusses technological advancements such as the use of arch support by Salvatore Ferragamo, the influence of social movements, designers, popular media, and more. 2012.

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A journey to remember


Books about deafness or with deaf characters


Museums in fiction