Fashion books: From brain food to eye candy
A collection of fashion books for the holidays (December 14, 2011)
"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, $45) was published in connection with the Metropolitan Museum's exhibit of the designer's work earlier this year in New York. Befitting a designer whose dark visions informed his work (and ended his life in suicide in 2010), the book delves deeper than just his artful dresses, surreal stilettos and superlow-slung "bumsters," to explore his themes of beauty and brutality, never far apart. "I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress," McQueen once said, in one of many memorable quotes in this book. McQueen's designs were meant to provoke.
"Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent" (Rizzoli, $100) looks at the modern Parisian muse, who as editor of French Vogue for a decade pushed the boundaries of fashion photography beyond any our Anna Wintour would cross. In shoots with Mario Testino and others, Roitfeld posed designer bags as ashtrays, diamond bracelets as muzzles, and a bare-breasted blonde in thigh-high denim boots knitting along a sidewalk. A vindication of those with fearless personal style who don't care to intellectualize it.
"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" (Abrams, $55): A fashion editor from an earlier generation, Vreeland didn't so much break the fashion rules as write them, first at Harper's Bazaar, starting in 1936, and later at Vogue. And yet her rules involved "obeying what was happening," Oscar de la Renta said, noting she was the first editor to pay attention to the youthquake of the '60s. Known for coining aphorisms that have snowballed into other aphorisms ("Pink is the navy blue of India"), she was immortalized as Kay Thompson's character in the movie "Funny Face." This biography tracks Vreeland's influential career through to her firing from Vogue in 1971, and past that to her post at the Metropolitan's Costume Institute.
"Harper's Bazaar Greatest Hits" (Abrams, $65): Devoted to the last 10 years under editor in chief Glenda Bailey, this volume gets past the cover and behind the scenes, capturing the convergence of fashion and pop culture in a decade that started with Gisele and ends with Lady Gaga. The images run from the silly (The Simpsons go to Paris' couture houses), to the political (Ellen DeGeneres as president) to the arresting (supermodels sans makeup).
"Vogue: The Covers" (Abrams, $50): As the title suggests, the featured Vogue covers take center stage in this book. Organized into chapters by decade starting with the first issue on Dec. 17, 1892, this format allows readers to easily see how Vogue has changed over the years. Most interesting to me was the movement away from illustrations toward photographs in the 1930s, the obsession with extreme facial close-ups in the 1970s and '80s and the domination of celebrity covers in the 21st century. It also includes five cardboard ready-to-frame prints of past Vogue covers.
"The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" (Abrams, $125): This behemoth includes archival articles, more than 50 interviews with Gaultier's muses and collaborators, two interviews with the designer himself and a timeline of Gaultier's work. But the piece de resistance are the "Plates" in the index, which include shots of his work on the runway, and candid pictures from Gaultier's life behind the scenes. Printed in conjunction with a Gaultier retrospective, at the Dallas Museum of Art until Feb. 12.