Leave the pumpkin spice lattes to the basics and zest up your Thanksgiving with these fashion tomes instead. From the gloomy splendor of 1970s Paris to the sordid drama of Gucci’s darker days, these tales of fashion's most intriguing personalities and revered houses will make you forget all about that Real Housewives marathon and leave you with excellent cocktail party fodder.
The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake ($30; amazon.com) Set amidst the glory days of Parisian fashion houses, The Beautiful Fall reveals the intertwining stories of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, who may be considered fashion’s original frenemies. Both from similarly banal upbringings, the book tracks their glittering ascent, tumultuous friendship and explores the self-destruction that often accompanies genius.
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber ($20; amazon.com) The sartorial choices of royals have always been widely chronicled, but perhaps no other queen has had such a close and catastrophic relationship with fashion as Marie Antoinette. Only 14 years old when she married Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette was both defined and destroyed by her extravagant gowns and decadent choices.
D.V. by Diane Vreeland ($17; amazon.com) Fabulous doesn’t even begin to describe Diane Vreeland’s world, and in this autobiography of the legendary editor, we’re treated not just to her fantastic life but to her extravagant opinions. We’d expect nothing less from the woman who once said, “The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb.”
Paris Fashion by Valerie Steele ($33; amazon.com) It’s easy to say that fashion is a mirror of modern society, but in Paris Fashion, Steele delves in much further to show us how and why the evolution of the fashion industry is shaped by the zeitgeist—using examples from literature, urban development, and art. As expected in any fashion history, there are plenty of debunked myths and salacious tidbits, but what’s most fascinating is Steele’s exploration of why fashion triumphed in Paris and what that says about our culture and perceptions.
The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sarah Gay Forden ($15; amazon.com) A murder, a mistress, a motorcycle chase … Before the days of Tom Ford, the Gucci family was more reminiscent of a different house—of cards, that is. Forden, a former WWD Milan bureau chief, tells the story of a former dishwasher who ended up creating the iconic fashion label and the bitter battle that ensued between his kin. One highlight: a business meeting ended with members of the family flinging leather bags at each other.