8 titles for fashion lovers to add to their pile

A selection of must-read books that explores the industry through different lenses.

Books that offer a glimpse of the glamorous world of fashion

From dressing stars to creating clothes for cartoon characters, from the roots of a textile technique to the route travelled by a pair of jeans, these books look at fashion from different angles.


The Glass of Fashion
By Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton (1904-80), the war photographer, designer and writer famed for his portraits of royalty and celebrities, met many whose style and changing tastes in fashion shaped its golden eras as well as his legendary eye. Beaton’s vignettes about encounters with the likes of, and profiles on, Chanel, Dior, Poiret, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga as well as personal muses, were first published in 1954 with his photos and more than 150 line drawings. Repacked and reissued, this 2021 volume retains the observant and opinionated views of the best costume design Academy Award winner for Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964).


A Visible Man
By Edward Enninful

Growing up in Ghana, Enninful was shy and sickly. He spent lots of time sketching clothes with his mother, at whose workshop he saw the most beautiful women of all sizes, shapes and heights. When he took over as editor-in-chief of British Vogue in 2017, he asked, “Why would you leave out women of all races, shapes, sizes, different religions and ages?” Thus, the magazine’s many firsts — the oldest cover star at age 85, African models, global activists and first responders — feature the different faces of beauty and desirability. Enninful, Vogue’s new global creative and cultural adviser from next year, looks back on his colourful life in this memoir.


Be-Spoke: Revelations from the World’s Most Important Fashion Designers
By Marylou Luther

Marylou Luther started fashion reporting in 1969 with no clue about what she was doing. After decades of learning and listening, the 92-year-old creative director of Fashion Group International became the “authoritative, sophisticated voice that sets the seasonal tone with [trend] summaries”. She has met legendary designers, become friends with many and picked up inspiring and funny lines on how they feel about the industry and its creative individuals. Luther shares quotes from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Yves St Laurent, Virgil Abloh, Marc Jacobs, Azzedine Alaïa, Miuccia Prada, Thom Browne and more, with drawings by illustrator and fashion chronicler Ruben Toledo.


How to Draw Clothing for Manga
By Naoto Date

Clothes may make the man but manga costumes definitely bring a character to life and lift the story off the page. The best thing is that you just need two details to do the trick: wrinkles and shadows. Add tucks and gathers here and there and shade some parts of an outfit. You will be surprised at how these little touches can turn a flat frock into one that twirls and swirls. Aspiring manga artists can draw inspiration from the more than 35 outfits shown alongside modelled photos in this guide which also takes into account the thickness and feel of fabrics.


Global Ikat: Roots and Routes of a Textile Technique
By David Paly + Rosemary Crill

Ikat, created by resist-dyeing sections of yarn before they are woven into cloth, bears the imprint of cultural elements that run deep and strong. Simple or intricate, its traditional patterns are blurred, jagged or feathered and the designs are sometimes non-linear. But there is no missing the dedication of weavers from Monsoon Asia to India, Japan, Central Asia and the Americas, who respect the age-old motifs, colours and palettes tied to this textile technique. Different iterations of cloths and costumes from the collection of Seattle, US-based David Paly trace how ikat has moved in new directions across geography and history.


By Jane Austen

Netflix’s 2022 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion reimagines her final completed novel, published months after her death in 1817, in a modern tone. To “honour the heart of the book”, director Carrie Cracknell retained its period setting but with Regency-era costumes fashioned in contemporary styles. So the high-waisted frocks, button-ups and collared silhouettes in black-and-white and grey reflect Anne Elliot’s conflicting emotions after meeting Captain Frederick Wentworth, whom she was persuaded not to marry years earlier. Purists say Cracknell’s Anne falls short, emotionally, of Austen’s most mature character in her most moving love story. If you like Austen undiluted, with subdued satire and a slow unveiling of her characters and mannerisms, read the classic.


Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment
By Maxine Bédat

Ever wondered how the pair of jeans you’ve worn everywhere made its way into your wardrobe? Who grew the cotton from which it was spun? Who dyed and wove that before it was sewn on a factory floor by someone bent over at a machine? Where was it packed before it was delivered to your door? And when you’re done with it, will it end up in a landfill or a second-hand store, to be buried or for another round of wear? Entrepreneur and sustainable apparel advocate Maxine Bédat follows the life of a pair of jeans to trace the global economy and how consumers can play a part in preserving the planet.


The Little Guide to the Little Black Dress
Edited by Orange Hippo!

Any gal who has ever slipped into a little black dress will have something to say about how the garment Chanel introduced in the 1920s makes her feel sexy. Karl Lagerfeld said a woman is never overdressed or underdressed with one. Stella McCartney finds it fills the wearer with confidence and ease. Ignoring colour and fancy for black, a shade associated with servants and mourning, Chanel’s loose-fit silhouette prompted women to shed their corsets. This little book traces the LBD’s evolution and how over the last 100 years, style icons — among them Audrey Hepburn, Wallis Simpson, Princess Diana, Beyoncé and even Betty Boop — turned an outfit cut along the lines of a simple chemise into a fashion staple.


This article first appeared on Sept 18, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.

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