Fashion Through the Pages

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Glams, with the weekend ahead, it could be the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Guest blogger Louise Owens from Read Me (  has reviewed some stunning books for your perusal that will take you on the adventure that is Fashion –  just the ticket for a spot of reading on the couch or a divine gift. Enjoy!

unnamed ‘The Dress; 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion’ by Megan Hess (Hardie Grant). I loved Hess’ earlier book ‘Fashion House’ and this one was also a delight to read. Each double page is assigned to a designer or icon and a memorable dress that has captured a moment in history. Hess writes in an engaging personal style, relating when she first saw the dress or what she thinks of it. Each description is then illustrated with one of illustrator Hess’ images in her iconic style. So we are treated to gorgeous dresses by Versace, Armani, Valentino, Prada, Dior, Givenchy, Pucci and the history and importance of each dress. Jacqueline Kennedy wearing the yellow and black dress, Diana Vreeland in red, The Supremes, Elizabeth Taylor wearing her ‘Cleopatra’ costume, Keira Knightley wearing her ‘Anna Karenina’ dress are all discussed and illustrated in a fun, informative and – of course – stunning style. This really is a beautiful book.

Photography by Grant Harvey;, Styling by Louise Owens

Vogue on Cristobal Balenciaga’ by Susan Irvine (Quadrille Publishing)

This beautifully produced book with a bounty of gorgeous photos, typefaces and layout is a great history and reference of this Spanish fashion designer. Balenciaga’s father was a captain of a small fishing boat who took wealthy clients out for pleasure cruises during the summer and his mother was a seamstress. When Balenciaga was 12 years old a Marquesa allowed the young Balenciaga to make her a dress. She was so impressed with his work that he started his tailoring apprenticeship and, even though he put in years of hard work, his career was pretty much launched. This book examines Balenciaga’s style – the Spanish influence of reds, blacks and purples and the elegant cut of the clothes often incorporating boleros and lines from flamenco designs. As one of the only couturiers of his time that had come from a background of tailoring, he was revered by his contemporaries because he not only had vision to create his pieces, but he knew firsthand every nuance of constructing garments; the sewing, cutting and design techniques. Chanel said, ‘Only he (Balenciaga) is capable of cutting material, assembling a creation and sewing it by hand. Balenciaga is a couturier in the truest sense of the word. The others are simply fashion designers’. How interesting and revealing that Christian Dior said ‘Haute Couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives’. It shows how much Balenciaga was respected for his knowledge and mastery of design.

‘The Coat Route; Craft, Luxury and Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat’ by Meg Lukens Noonan (Scribe) 

This book celebrates the history, intricacies and skills of trades in the clothing business. It is a timely reminder of the importance of personal skills that have been learnt and developed over centuries and respecting items made to last in a disposable world. The true story of a journalist who sets out to trace the story of the making of the world’s most expensive coat using the best of each element as a way of keeping these skills and trades alive, this book is written in the style of a fascinating travel journal. The chapters are divided in to the fleece, lining, cloth, buttons, calligrapher and tailor and in each we delve into the history and intricacies of each specific element. We visit the Andes in Peru to find vicunas who produce the fleece which is finer than cashmere for the coat, Florence for the silk lining, Paris for the cloth merchant, West Yorkshire for the mill, Halesowen in England for buttons, Sydney for the engraver of the label. (I remember interviewing this engraver, John Thompson, for a story for a magazine a few years ago. Thompson was given the last hand-engraving apprenticeship ever offered in England. A very talented man; he created the invitations for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding) and Sydney for the 4th generation tailor, John Cutler. Throughout the book we learn about the fascinating history of Savile Row in London, silk worms, the history of fastenings and buttons, the industrial revolution and the fashion retail trade. Lukens Noonan talks about the culture of handmade clothes and the importance of keeping centuries-old trades alive. Many of the skilled tradespeople we are introduced to in this book have no-one to teach their trades to. It’s so important to celebrate and nurture, whenever we can, those who work with their hands creating beautiful and lasting items. On this note, I applaud my dear friend Kylie who is relaunching her dress-making business.

‘Lessons From Madame Chic; 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris’ by Jennifer L. Scott (Harper Collins)

This was a fun, rollicking read as I followed American author Scott on exchange when she finds herself living with a very sophisticated, elegant yet grounded Parisian family which she playfully and lovingly refers to as Family Chic. Scott reveals the beautiful sense of style, restraint and joie de vivre that the family encapsulate. We read of Madame Chic’s pared-down wardrobe, the no snacking concept, their tiny kitchen facility which produces delicious food, the idea of dining well and food presentation, minimal make-up, the delights of perfume, the expected dress code (and the ensuing embarrassing clash of cultures) and what makes Scott’s experience in Paris really so much fun. Scott talks of the horror of discovering that she is to house her clothes for her 6 month stay in a very tiny, freestanding wardrobe with a handful of coathangers and the revelation of the 10 item wardrobe (+ accessories) for each season. Scott looks at choosing the right clothes and colours for the individual, personal presentation and being forced (and therefore, forces us) to reconsider quantity over quality, taking the time and care to look after yourself and ‘bien dans sa peau’ (being comfortable in your skin). This is a fun, easy read which certainly made me think and celebrate fashion and life.

 ‘Audrey The 60s’ by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt (Harper Collins)

My maternal grandmother was Audrey H. (that’s Audrey Hannah!) so the name Audrey has always been very special to me; indeed one of my daughters has the middle name Audrey and another daughter has the middle name Hannah. Ever since childhood I have loved the movie ‘My Fair Lady’, however it wasn’t really until I started my first full-time job that my boss really introduced to Audrey Hepburn’s other movies. My favourite Audrey Hepburn movie would have to be ‘How To Catch A Thief’ – fabulous, clever and crazy! This large coffee-table book is a beautiful compilation of Hepburn during the 1960s; each chapter is devoted to a movie of hers – full page photos (oh, what a luxury from my background in print!) of stills and candid images from movies produced in this decade. Great typeface, stunning use of images and gorgeous quotes. A pleasure to read! Thank you to my first full-time boss, Robert, for introducing me to the range of Audrey Hepburn movies.

LO_141027-32 (1) copy 2-2‘New York Jackie; Pictures From Her Life in the City’ edited by Bridget Watson Payne (Chronicle Books)

I discovered this book while shopping at Crabtree & Evelyn – I have often thought that whoever buys their books is doing a great job! This book is about the years that Jackie lived in New York. My husband is fascinated by JFK and reads a lot about him, but Jackie is the person that intrigues me – the things she had to cope with and then her reinventions, her love of books, how she enjoyed working as an editor and also as a champion to save Grand Central Station. What an amazing woman! It astounded me a few years ago when I asked for a book on Jackie Onassis at a former local book chain store. ‘No’, the assistant had never heard of Jackie Onassis. ‘Jackie Kennedy?’, I asked? ‘No’. Then ‘Jacqueline Bouvier?’, again ‘No’. I know I am not the only Jackie fan – I have interviewed a lady who has a whole section in her bookshelf devoted to every book available on Jackie together with a wonderful image of Jackie hanging over her dining table. Have you got this book, Dorryce? This book is filled with gorgeous candid photos including Jackie taking John Jr. to his first day of school, bike riding and walking with Rudolph Nureyev all with her amazing sense of style and grace which belies the experiences she had to weather.

Photography by Craig Wall;, Styling by Louise Owens

unnamed ‘Unlock Your Style’ by Nikki Parkinson (Hachette)

I had heard fashion journalist, Parkinson, speak at a conference earlier this year and was keen to read her book. It’s a great reference and inspires you to try some different looks and products. Parkinson builds your confidence to dress in a way that matches your personality. She asks, ‘what makes you tick? What gives you energy?’ and then gives you some tools and references to try. Her sense of fun intertwined with some of her fashion anecdotes make this an enjoyable and amusing read. As a lover of bright lipsticks, her sections on lipstick were music to my ear. I also loved her sage comment to look for that spark when you are trying on clothes – if you don’t love it in the changing room, you won’t love it at home. New beauty favourites that I have discovered since reading this book are: Lush ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ facial cleanser and ‘Whip Stick’ lip balm, Essano ‘Rosehip’ Nourishing Hand Crème, Clinique ‘Lash Power’ feathering mascara and ‘Chubby Stick’ moisturizing lip colour balm and Jane Iredale ‘Deluxe Shader’, ‘Chisel Powder’ and Oval Blender’ brushes. This is a fun read to inspire and develop a love of fashion and beauty and to encourage you to make the most of what you have.

Image attached; Photography by Craig Wall;, Styling by Louise Owens

unnamed-2 ‘Hair Romance; How to Create 82 Fabulous Hairstyles’ by Christina Butcher (Murdoch Books)

Top knots, French braids, ponytails – oh my! Just my kind of a book! This book is great fun – running through a range of styles to try depending on your hair length and type and your own preferences. I now recognize clever Butcher from a conference I attended. Divided into chapters on ponytails, plaits, buns, knots and twists, bouffants and resources, the book covers a lot of ground. With lists of what you will need for each style, step-by-step tutorials, clear illustrations, photos and descriptions it takes the guesswork out of doing your hair. Having had my hair in a range of styles from pixie/elfin, sharp bob and very long, this book gave me a fresh take on a few styles and some clever tips to try. I am loving the sea salt idea such as Lush ‘Sea Spray’ hair mist which gives your hair body, volume and hold.

Image attached; Photography by Craig Wall;, Styling by Louise Owens

unnamed-3‘A Matter of Fashion; 20 Iconic Items That Changed the History of Style’ by Federico Rocca (White Star) What a book! Divided into twenty chapters, it describes the items that have been most influential in fashion. This book presents the history and anecdotes of these items; most of them were created for surprisingly practical reasons and have just weathered the test of time. So we read about Levi jeans which evolved from rough canvas work pants made out of de Nimes cloth (which became denim) with copper rivets so that their pockets didn’t rip when workers put their tools in them. We hear about the chance meeting of a clothes packer named Louis Vuitton with Napoleon III’s wife which set him on his way to create waterproof and customised luggage. We read about the trench coat which came from trench warfare – initially a waterproof jacket designed by Burberry for his own rheumatism and was later used in the Second Boer war, trips to South Pole and for WWI troops. The mariniere is the practical striped top of Breton fisherman which was adopted for the French Navy in Brittany with 21 horizontal stripes (the number of Napoleon‘s military victories). Chuck Taylor’s All Star sneakers were designed to optimise traction for basketball players and were named after Taylor who travelled scouting for players, but cleverly promoted the shoes by having famous players and basketball stars photographed – all wearing the sneakers. Lacoste with it’s alligator logo was inspired by a the tennis player’s nickname. Hermes Carre (Square) scarf was made from the silk of jockey’s shirts. Ballerina flats were inspired by the practicality of hard-working ballet dancers and Raybans were created for pilots to avoid glare from the sun. A fascinating read!

Image attached; Photography by Craig Wall;, Styling by Louise Owens


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