In my quest to define style, learn from the experts and be inspired, I enjoy reading fashion books on style and photography.
They are a lot of fun to read and can actually be great gifts as well. Plus, if you are going on vacation this summer, you will definitely need some holiday reading.
Here are some style books that I have read and some that are on my wish list.
10 of the best fashion books to inspire you
As this list has been especially updated to give you some summer reading ideas, I’m concentrating on newer fashion books here (just in case you’ve already read everything that’s ever been written about style and fashion), but there are still some oldies but goodies among my top 10 too.
There are plenty of autobiographies and biographies as I felt like you might want something you could get your teeth into if you have some time to relax over the summer.
1. The Woman I Wanted to Be – Diane Von Furstenberg
This is definitely one of my favorite fashion books. It’s an inspiring biography from this iconic designer.
4 stars, 280+ reviews
“Reading her book left me feeling inspired and uplifted because she doesn’t sugarcoat her struggles.” – evanascent
2. I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist – Betty Halbreich
She may be in her 80s, but Betty Halbreich is showing no signs of slowing down.
She has spent nearly 40 years as the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, dishing out frank advice and her own brand of wisdom to socialites, stars and women who need her guidance.
4.2 stars, 330+ reviews
“This was such a refreshing memoir full of color and honesty. I recommend it. It is a especially a fun read for anyone who has wonderful memories.” – Rayne
3. Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon – Iris Apfel
Iris Apfel became a household name in 2004 at the age of 83 when her closet became the subject of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute exhibition.
Known for her sense of humor and her trademark round classes, she has become a leading light in the fight against fashion in the fashion industry.
One of the best fashion books around, this is a mix of musings and photographs, including some never-before-published images.
4.7 stars, 100+ reviews
“Stunning book! I loved every picture, page and word. Iris Apfel has outdone herself once again. A must have!” – Tracie
4. D.V. – Diana Vreeland
D.V., Diana Vreeland. I loved this book which is full of great anecdotes and small stories of Diana Vreeland’s life in a bygone era.
4.3 stars, 100+ reviews
“There ain’t enough stars for this book. The book is a testament to her taste level.” – JT Maxwell.
5. Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography – Laurence Benaim
This is relatively new among current fashion books, so it’s on my to-read list. Let me know if you’re already read it and what you think of it.
It chronicles his star trajectory which led to him leading the House of Dior to his fall from grace, and rise again, with interviews from his partner Pierre Bergé as well as staff, family and muses.
I’d like to read about his concept for the Le Smoking suit for women, which quickly became a sexy alternative to the little black dress.
6. Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion – Lauren Goldstein Crowe
Credited with discovering Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, editor and muse Isabella Bow was rarely seen without an eccentric hat.
She tragically committed suicide at the age of just 48, but the legacy of this woman who started her career as Anna Wintour’s assistant lives on.
“Fascinating and sad story of a person who appeared to have ‘everything’.” – SE Jarvis.
7. Grace: A Memoir – Grace Coddington
Beautiful. Willful. Charming. Blunt – that’s how Grace Coddington is described in the blurb for her book.
She talks through her early career as a model, working the David Bailey, to stepping behind the camera to become fashion editor at British Vogue in the Swinging Sixties.
She moved onto American Vogue in the Eighties, and takes you behind the scenes as iconic Vogue shoots as well as revealing her private life, including a car crash which almost killed her, her two marriages, and her enduring friendship with Anna Wintour.
Once only known to those in the industry, she was thrust into the spotlight with the movie The September Issue, which tells of how Vogue puts together its greatest issue of the year.
4.2 stars, 200+ reviews
“Sweet, charming, funny and engrossing book – by the time I reached the end, I felt like Grace and I had become good friends. Grace Coddington is an inspiration, especially for baby-boomer women, giving us insights into her aging process and how she’s dealt with it in a world where looks are everything.” – LowTide.
8. Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life – Justine Picardie
No top 10 of fashion books would be complete without at least one Coco Chanel tome in there.
This biography by Justine Picardie is based on personal interviews with Chanel’s last surviving family, friends and employees. It starts with her life in an orphanage and charts her rise to one of the most powerful figures in fashion history.
3.9 stars, 100+ reviews
“Favorite Coco book of them all. Justine Picardie is a great writer. I have read ALL the Coco books and this one is the best to me.” – BoxerDogLady
9. Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You – Simon Doonan
If you’re looking for something a little different with a sense of humor, this might just be it.
Not your typical how-to manual, this is about tapping into your existing idiosyncrasies to develop a totally unique style. It’s a mix of essays combined with interviews with eccentric women of the world such as Tilda Swinton.
“Just about finished with the book and it has been delightful! Great writing style, totally relatable and it makes me feel better about myself. Can’t beat that.” – Colleen
10. Holly Would Dream – Karen Quinn
My final book is actually a novel, just in case you’re looking for an easy beach vacation read.
This wins praise for it’s old-school Hollywood glamour and the Rome setting. It’s a classic rom-com for an easy summer read.
“Holly would Dream was just about the best book an Audrey Hepburn fan could read! The delightful references to Hepburn and Cary Grant appealed to my love of the golden age of Hollywood.”
Latest fashion books
There are also plenty of other style books that I love.
The Gio Graphy: Fun in the Widescreens World of Fashion book by style icon Giovanna Bataglia is already on the wishlist of many of you. Giovanna is a style icon for many and this book is sure going to inspire you.
Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I Wear Today? by Ines de la Fressange is for those that can never get enough of French style.
The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe: learn how to create a closet you love.
Best fashion books: My personal favorites
I Love Your Style – How to Refine and Define Your Personal Style by Amanda Brooks: a book I personally enjoyed and you can read my review.
The Sartorialist X: Schumann photographs both men and women on the streets worldwide. Great for your coffee table.
Style Forever: The Grown-Up Guide to Looking Fabulous: Alyson Walsh is a journalist and blogger and she has a very down-to-earth approach to style.
Her book gives you clear guidelines on how to achieve timeless effortless style. Find out which style tribe you feel you belong to or get inspired by the many stylish women that are featured in the book.
American Fashion by Charlie Schelps: a book recommended by Oprah, that provides a richly illustrated celebration of the history of fashion in America. Looks really interesting with lots of pictures from icons like Lauren Bacall and Madonna.
How Not to Look Old: fast and effortless ways to look 10 years younger, 10 pounds lighter, 10 times better. A fun book with quick and good tips to dress well and look well as you get old. Read my review of How not to look old.
Staging Your Comeback, A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45, Christopher Hopkins. Currently on my to read table, this book offers a lot of practical tips with lots of illustrations on how to look great over 45.
The Body Shape Bible by Trinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine: The ultimate guide on body shape and how to dress for your shape. They identify 12 unique shapes and provide excellent dressing advice for each.
The One Hundred: Nina Garcia highlights 100 fashion items she believes we should all own.
The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style by Kim France and Andrea Linett: this book goes into detail about various styles and describes how to achieve them. Illustrated with lots of clothing examples and images. Review coming soon.
Style Statement, Live by Your Own Design by Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte: find out what defines you and the 2 words that describe your style. Find out more in my own review: how to discover your style statement or read about my own style statement.
Parisian Chic, A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange: If you want to add a bit of parisian style to your wardrobe then Ines offers many tips on how to get it. For more info you can read the parisian chic book review.
Humans of New York: a book on beautiful quotes and photos of people in New York
Even more style books I think you’ll love
Refinery 29: Style Stalking by Pia Gelardi and Christene Barberich
4.5 stars, 40+ reviews
Style stalking: lots of style inspiration from the creators of the popular blog Refinery 29
“Let Refinery29 reinvigorate your style! This energetic style guide is jam-packed with hundreds of ideas and colorful illustrative photos of fashion savvy everyday women” – Zelda
It by Alexa Chung
3.7 stars, 90+ reviews
The darling of the fashion world and co-host of the music TV show Fuse News shares her inspirations, musings, and her own very personal and eclectic style
“I was pleasantly surprised, though. It was very unique, with dialogue, pictures and original drawings. Absolutely loved it. A must for any fan of Alexa Chung, or fashion in general.” – J.B.
The Essentials of Fabulous by Ellen Lubin-Sherman
Abook about how to be fabulous as a total person. For more information read my book review of the essentials of fabulous.
5 stars, 12 reviews
“From the front cover through every chapter all the way to the caption on the back cover, I have thoroughly enjoyed this book!” – Amy
Love Style Life by Garance Doré
A wonderful book about style and life by the stylish French Garance Doré.
4.2 stars, 80+ reviews
“Beautiful book that I read cover to cover. Interesting to see how Garance got her start. Reads more like a diary, then a lifestyle book!” – Katrina
Influence by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
4.3 stars, 50+ reviews
“Amazing book. Filled with so many amazing pictures, facts and stories on so many great and talented designers and artists, every person who is in love with fashion or history of fashion can’t help but love.” – Cara
The Power of Style by Annette Tapert
4.1 stars, 30+ reviews
“An unbiased look into the lives of beautiful women of the past that have left their mark on style and taste. I read and relish each word and photo.” – Annie
Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas
4.4 stars, 150+ reviews
“The book is well written and avoids any technical jargon. The anecotes and first hand research is admirable. She definitely put her time and energy in researching famous luxury houses and provides some interesting commentary on how things are changing.” – Benny
Instyle the New Secrets of Style: Your Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day by Jennifer Alfano
3.7 stars, 20+ reviews
“This is my go-to book for outfit ideas and style inspiration. As a long-time InStyle reader, I was excited to get this book. I keep it handy for when I look in my closet and think ‘I have so many clothes and nothing to wear.'” – Honrée
The Truth About Style by Stacey London
4.3 stars, 120+ reviews
“Not just a fashion guide – but a guide to unveiling to your best, true self” – Denise
Classy: Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady by Derek Blasberg
3.3 stars, 60 reviews
“This is a great book with wonderful advices for just about everything a young a lady goes through.” – Shavana
3.5 stars, 30+ reviews
“Well written by a lady with a wonderful attitude about body acceptance, who affirms the right of every woman to dress in a way that will make her feel beautiful.” – Maine
I Want to Be Her!: How Friends & Strangers Helped Shape My Style by Andrea Linett and Anne Johnston Albert
Style Feed: The World’s Top Fashion Blogs by William Oliver and Susannah Lau
In My Shoes: A Memoir by Tamara Mellon and William Patrick
A personal account of the woman who grew Jimmy Choo into a billion dollar brand.
Fashion 2.0: Season of Change by Yuli Ziv
A Forecast of Digital Trends Set to Disrupt the Fashion Industry, Yul Ziv: If you like to know more about the fashion industry and digital media.
The World According to Karl by Jean-Christophe Napias
Karl Lagerfeld’s quick wit and silver tongue are as notorious as Chanel’s quilted handbag. This book is a cornucopia of his Karlisms: cultivated, unpredictable, provocative, sometimes shocking, but always impossible to ignore.
Beyond Chic by Ivan Terestchenko
Look into the homes of designers like Chanel, Alaïa, Yves Saint Laurent, Pucci, Kenzo, and Missoni.
Unshopping: Recovery Solutions from an Ex-shopaholic by Debbie Roes
This book will help you with your shopping addition and teach how you can look more stylish with fewer clothes.
Farr shows readers how to create a hip, ageless, individual sense of personal style without feeding into the culture’s deep obsession with looking “young.” High on my ‘to read list’. Read my review of style evolution.
A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style by Tim Gunn
Not always that easy to read but a little guide I refer back to time and time again.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel by Lisa Immordino Vreeland
This one chronicles 50 years of international fashion.
Fashion history books
If you love to read about the history of fashion, these choices may be for you.
Fashion: 150 Years of Couturiers, Designers, Labels by Charlotte Seeling
The Fashion Book by Editors of Phaidon
New and extended edition: Spanning almost 200 years, this is a massive A-to-Z encyclopedia of fashion packed with hundreds of profiles designers, photographers, style icons, models, and retailers.
Audrey Style by Pamela Clarke Keogh
Who is your favorite style icon from history? If it’s Audrey, then this book is a fabulous read.
Jackie Style by Pamela Clarke Keogh
If you prefer the style of Jackie O, you may wish to opt for this one.
Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (Collection from the Kyoto Costume Institute) by Akiko Fukai
100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein
I love this one for showing how a dress can become part of history.
Fashion coffee table books
If you’re looking for a book you can dip in and out of yourself as well as to provide interest to your visitors, you may want to look at some of these chunkier tomes.
Chanel coffee table book
Chanel: Collections and Creations by Daniele Bott
4.7 stars, 220+ reviews
“Simply put – it’s a beautiful book, perfect for coffee table decor for any fashionista out there.”
Louis Vuitton coffee table book
Louis Vuitton: The Birth of Modern Luxury by Louis Vuitton
“If you’re a LV collector, this is a must-have book!! It’s bulky and heavy but it has so much history.” – LouiePie
Tom Ford by Tom Ford and Bridget Foley
Reviewers do mention some nudity in this one.
4.5 stars, 180+ reviews
“Love, love this book! Looks amazing especially the outer hard cover which feels almost like fabric, so beautifully made.” – Rehana
Alexander McQueen book
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton
4.8 stars, 360+ reviews
“Beautiful, beautiful, more beautiful. This book makes me feel like I own a McQueen, which is nice because in reality I could never afford such riches.” – Lillbet
Vogue: The Covers by Dodie Kazanjian
4.7 stars, 100+ reviews
“The perfect coffee table book for fashion lovers of all decades & lovers of vogue.” – Miss Mary.
What are your favorite style books?
UPDATE: this list is constantly updated with my new finds and recommendations from readers. If you know of a great style or coffee table book, let me know! I also have a complete gift guide with other gift ideas for women over 40
Feature image by Heather Chastain