Every season brings a fresh crop of style books, and this spring's offerings are delightful, from fashion insider memoirs to inspirational coffee table tomes. Here are my favorites.
Isabel Toledo has been a working fashion designer since the mid-80s, when she sold her first collection to Patricia Field and Henri Bendel. But it wasn't until First Lady Michelle Obama wore Toledo's lemongrass felted lace coat and dress to her husband's inauguration that the Cuban-born, New Jersey-bred designer became a household name the world over. Her new memoir, Roots of Style, traces her journey from Castro's Cuba to FIT to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute (where she interned under Diana Vreeland) to the top of the fashion pyramid, with helpful advice for fledgling designers and fanciful artwork by her illustrator husband, Ruben.
Unlike Toledo, Marisa Berenson has been famous her whole life, a claim backed up by A Life In Pictures. The book features 300 lavish photos of the aristocratic heiress (and granddaughter of legendary fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, currently the subject of a Met Costume Institute exhibit) beginning with her privileged childhood (her christening portrait, by Irving Penn, was published in Vogue and she was photographed for her first Elle cover at age five) to her 70s-era modeling heyday (when she was a constant presence on the covers of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Interview, Newsweek and Town & Country) to film stills from her acting work in Barry Lyndon, Cabaret and I am Love. All told, this is a fascinating portrait of a fascinating woman.
Brad Goreski's inspiring, surprisingly moving memoir, Born to be Brad follows the dapper Canadian import's rise from Barbie loving, much-taunted chubby wannabe actor to an internship at Vogue, a well-publicized stint assisting Rachel Zoe (as chronicled on Bravo's The Rachel Zoe Project) through his current incarnation as celebrity stylist and star of his own reality show, It's a Brad, Brad World. Really, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece on TFI, photographer Kirstin Sinclair is the ultimate fashion insider, covering the New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week shows season after season for Elle UK and other A-list outlets. A Front Row Seat gathers her most striking images from the last decade, taking readers backstage, behind-the-scenes and front row center at some of the biggest shows around. There's also a section devoted to street style, starring the world's favorite models, bloggers and fashion editors.
Subtitled "Beyond the Boundaries of Fashion," blogger Lizzie Garrett Hettler's Tomboy Style shines a light on our most intriguing boy-meets-girl icons, from Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Lee Miller, Amelia Earheart, Jean Seberg and Katharine Hepburn to modern day muses Lauren Hutton, Diane Keaton, Patti Smith, Lou Doillon, Alexa Chung and Tilda Swinton, none of whom ever met a tailored blazer or pair of boyfriend jeans they didn't like.
Photographer Lillian Bassman worked with some of the finest magazines and advertisers of the day back in the 1950s and '60s. The just-released Lillian Bassman: Lingerie captures the late photographer's artful images for lingerie companies Maidenform, Vanity Fair and Warner, featuring lanky Mad Man-era models in excruciatingly glamorous brassieres, girdles, peignoirs, corsets and camisoles.
Christian Louboutin makes women see red, in the best way possible. This lavish coffee table book of the same name showcases twenty years worth of the French cobbler's most fantastical crimson-soled creations–including snakeskin platforms, glittering t-straps, feathered sandals and thigh-high boots–in surreal photos by Philippe Garcia and David Lynch.
ALL ABOUT BEAUTY
American Beauty, by fine art photographer (and Anna Wintour's former assistant) Claiborne Swanson Frank, features casual-yet-studied portraits of some of our country's prettiest natives, such as Aerin Lauder, Minnie Mortimer, Elettra Wiedemann, Amanda Brooks, Cristina Cuomo, Joan Smalls, Marissa Mayer and Amanda Hearst, as well as Lauren Santo Domingo, Meredith Melling Burke and many of the author's other former Vogue colleagues. The majority of Swanson Frank's subjects are shot outdoors in natural settings that complement their natural beauty (though oddly, none are shown smiling). Which may be why my favorite image is that of interior designer Nena Woolworth, photographed leaning against the railing of a child's playhouse, a cigarette dangling from her mischievously smirking lips, looking like she's having the time of her life and doesn't care what anyone thinks. Now that's a beautiful thing.
Finally, artist/hairdresser Bob Recine takes a decidedly more unnatural approach to things, as can be seen in his book, Alchemy of Beauty, which is filled with images of gorgeous women transformed into otherworldly creatures thanks to Recine's artful way with wigs, hairpins, sunglasses, flowers, safety pins, Play-Doh, duct tape, razor blades, cellophane and rubber duckies, all of which are used in new and inventive ways that will have you rethinking the very meaning of beauty.