IPads, Nooks and Kindles may be topping wish lists this holiday season, but when it comes to reading about fashion, nothing beats the glossy, full-color grandeur of a coffee-table book.
This season's crop of oversized style tomes is especially alluring. Among them are memoir-esque reads, playfully pedantic books on how to hone personal style and a pair of opulent tomes focusing on men's fashion, encompassing styles from cowboy chic to Savile Row sleek.
Of course, you won't be packing these biceps-building books for your next red eye. But then not all reading has to be on the run. Curling up in front of the fire with a big juicy traditional book is a great way to take a break from the holiday season hubbub. Here are some of our picks for giving or for savoring yourself.
The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration From the Costume Designer of Mad Men
By Janie Bryant with Monica Corcoran Harel. $26.99
"Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant is a master of optimizing a woman's figure through wardrobe — just look at what she's done with curvy Christina Hendricks. And in "The Fashion File," co-written by veteran L.A. style writer Monica Corcoran Harel, she offers a bevy of helpful style tips that neither condescend nor confuse. Ideas include picking the right colors for your skin tone, adding drama to any outfit via strategic accessories such as opera-length gloves, and figuring out if you're a Betty [Draper] or a Joan [Holloway]; the book encourages women to find their inner leading ladies — and then festoon them with abandon.
By Andrew Bolton. Chronicle Books. $60
Legendary New York designer Anna Sui has been melding girlish whimsy with rock 'n' roll attitude in her collections for more than 20 years. And in "Anna Sui," writer Andrew Bolton chronicles the inspiration behind every collection she's sent down the runway — starting with fall 1991, which featured then-baby-faced models Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell decked out in prep-school plaids. The book features a flattering forward by photographer Steven Meisel, along with vintage magazine spreads, ads and portraits of celebrities including Sofia Coppola, Stevie Nicks and Lenny Kravitz. And while a few of Sui's vintage collections seem cringe-worthy today (fall '92's pirate-themed collection comes to mind), Meisel elucidates, "Anna will always gild the lily, and I'll be the one saying, 'Anna, does that outfit really need a birthday cake on the shoulder?'"
By Martina Rink. Thames & Hudson. $50
Isabella Blow, the famous stylist, editor and muse who nurtured the considerable talents of Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, committed suicide in 2007. "Isabella Blow," written by her former personal assistant, says goodbye to the fashion provocateur through heartfelt letters written by industry and celebrity friends, including Paul Smith, Valentino Garavani, Boy George, Manolo Blahnik, Bryan Ferry and Anna Wintour. A true original, she "had no time for anything humdrum, banal or mundane," writes Wintour, who hired Blow to be her assistant at Vogue in the 1980s, "to the extent that the task of cleaning her desk every night had to be done with a bottle of Perrier water and Chanel No.5."
The World's Most Influential Fashion Designers
By Noel Palomo-Lovinski. Barron's Educational Series Inc. $29.99
In fashion, what goes around inevitably comes around again. "The World's Most Influential Fashion Designers" shows us exactly how that ebb and flow works. Through linear graphs detailing 50 major designers — beginning with Parisian pioneer Paul Poiret — the author details who inspired, and was inspired by, each. Miuccia Prada, for example, was influenced by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, who also challenged the notion of femininity being "contingent on coquetry"; and labels she's inspired include Phillip Lim and Proenza Schouler. Exhaustively assembled by Palomo-Lovinski, an assistant fashion design professor at Kent State University, the book is full of "aha" moments (how did we ever miss the shared sensibilities between Stella McCartney and sharp-line-loving '80s designer Claude Montana?). And it connects the dots in a smart, style-savvy way.
Harper's Bazaar Fashion: Your Guide to Personal Style
By Lisa Armstrong. Hearst Books. $24.95
Fashion books on achieving personal style seem antithetical. After all, how can so many general rules apply to creating an individual wardrobe? Which is why "Your Guide to Personal Style," a metallic gold-covered tome written by fashion journalist Lisa Armstrong, doesn't delve too much into fashion do's and don'ts. Instead, it offers tips on how to choose the best looks for your shape (for instance, curvy girls shouldn't wear voluminous looks), how to buy accessories (invest in that Cartier Tank watch — it will gussy up every outfit, every day) and the kind of garb to don for a night out, a daytime party and even a backwoods cabin getaway.
Bespoke: The Men's Style of Savile Row
By James Sherwood. Rizzoli. $65
"Bespoke," a fully illustrated history of bespoke (or custom) tailoring, charts the ascendance of Savile Row, a small street in London that's known globally as the epicenter of men's tailoring. Moving chronologically from the late 1700s onward, the book tells the story in part through profiles of 26 master tailors and tailoring firms from Savile Row — including stalwarts such as Gieves & Hawkes and relative newbies including Ozwald Boateng. Chapters such as "Savile Row at War: Tailoring for Heroes" and "Savile Row in Hollywood" cover wide swaths of eras, adding richness to an already storied subject.
American Fashion Menswear
By Robert E. Bryan. Assouline. $50
The third volume in the Council of Fashion Designer's American Fashion series, "American Fashion Menswear" tackles men's fashion by movement, such as Ivy League style and Western wear, and by archetype, such as "the dandy" (think rock star Prince or Vogue's Andre Leon Talley). There are also lengthy chapters on Hollywood actors and musical artists, featuring a phenomenal collection of historic photographs of Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop (among others). The history of American menswear is told in short essay format in between the book's splashy photos, but the real story here is told visually.
Louis Vuitton: 100 Legendary Trunks
By Pierre Léonforte and Éric Pujalet-Plaà. Preface by Patrick-Louis Vuitton. Abrams Books. $125
It stands to reason that the first book about Louis Vuitton trunks would be sturdy-yet-luxurious, like the very luggage it chronicles. And despite its hyper-niche focus, the 496-page book is actually a delightful read, imparting short stories about very personal pieces of luggage. Standouts among the custom-made trunks (and other cases) include a suitcase especially made for the dolls of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of England in 1938; monogrammed trunks for the Wes Anderson movie "The Darjeeling Limited," in 2007; a trunk that pops open into a cot-like bed made for Italian-French adventurer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza; and a trunk that turns into a shower, specially made by the company for an invention competition in 2004.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun