Closet 101 Style

Favorite Fashion Books

I have really enjoyed putting together some of my favorite reading recommendations for Feather Factor, and today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite fashion and style books.

I’m a sucker for any book that advertises its ability to “transform my wardrobe” and tell me how to dress. Over the years I’ve literally read and/or leafed through a hundred style manuals, coffee table books. and the like. I like to check them out at the library first if possible, and only the best get added to my bookshelves. Here are some of my favorites, that range from the coffee table variety to chick lit novels, to denser reads on the luxury industry.


The Millionaire’s Handbook: This book was actually given to me as a gag gift from my friend J when I graduated from business school. Har dee har har. Anyway, this sat unread on my shelf for nearly a year. It seemed like the kind of “how to” book that’d recommend dubious behavior like referring hazily to “back East” in conversation and suddenly referring to your grandmother as Muffy. However, I finally cracked it open during a few weeks ago, and found it quite good! The fashion sections particularly are great at helping you craft a “millionaire’s look” without a millionaire budget – advice includes cutting down the amount of clothing you buy, by 2/3rds so you can spend 3x more on quality items.

Parisian Chic: This is one of my all time favorites. I think the first ~70 pages or so of the book are worth it alone, just for the very helpful and cheerily written tips by the forever stylish Ines de la Fressange. It’s full of useful tips and charming illustrations, and even gives a list of “unexpected” pairings – an evening dress with a straw bag, for example. The back half of the book has suggestions for shopping and life, and I’m looking forward to referencing Fressange’s food and shopping suggestions for our next trip to Paris.

Elegance (by Kathleen Tessaro): This was a book I accidentally checked out from the library. I was looking for the original Elegance – a no nonsense piece by Genevieve Dariaux originally written decades ago. Dariaux’s Elegance is a sweet read with many charming tips about shopping like a Parisian, and appropriate dress. However, I did find myself unable to relate to quite a few chapters due to its original time period – the advice on proper veils, for example.

Kathleen Tessaro’s Elegance is actually the story of a woman Louise – stuck in a troubled marriage with a bad wardrobe to boot – and what happens to her when she reads Dariaux’s Elegance. Tessaro’s book is a little bit like Bridget Jones meets Tim Gunn, and I thought it was a great little read. Tessaro also excerpts some of the best parts of Dariaux’s work, so you get the best of both worlds.

DeluxeBy Newsweek reporter Dana Thomas, Deluxe is a fascinating read that is sure to capture the attention of anyone who loves luxury goods. Thomas presents a clear and sometimes very harsh look on the luxury industry – how many brands have continued to increase prices while decreasing quality, and just how far the idea of “luxury” has come from its roots. Some brands like Prada and Gucci get the full investigative journalist treatment, while others like Chanel and Hermes seem to earn Thomas’s admiration through her extensive research.

Chanel: Collections and Creations: I first noticed this beautiful hardcover (written by journalist Daniele Bott) when while trying on boots at a Chanel boutique, I noticed my husband engrossed on a nearby couch. I walked over to investigate and saw him leafing through this beautiful book, reading about the Chanel suit. “Chanel makes some pretty cool stuff!” he said.

The fact that this book was actively encouraging pro-Chanel thought in my household was already enough reason for me to want a copy to keep handy at all times. However, this book is also full of beautiful photography, details, and history of some of Chanel’s most iconic creations and collections. I’m always happy to open it up and flip through it.


What are some of your favorite fashion/style books? I am definitely anticipating writing a part two to this post (I have so many favorites), so I’ll be sure to add some of your selections to that list!

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  • RosaLovesDC
    October 8, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Great post lady!
    I have two: ‘100 dresses that changed and world’ and ‘Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion’ by Isabel Toledo. I finished reading the last one recently and I just love it.

  • Olivia
    October 8, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Thanks Katherine! – I really miss your “reading now” section (with links to articles and books) so this is such a treat! Even though their covers look old and outdated, I still enjoy “French Chic” and “Italian Chic” by Susan Sommers.

    • Katherine
      October 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

      Aww thank you Olivia – I had no idea anybody was reading that so it’s good to hear 🙂 I’ll be sure to try and start to include more links to articles and etc if possible in posts!

  • adele
    October 8, 2012 at 8:12 am

    I tend to stick to magazines when reading about fashion, but your book recommends sound like I would really love them!
    Happy Monday Hun xoxo

  • Lindsay
    October 8, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I really enjoyed reading Dana Thomas’s book. There’s nothing like it on the market right now. It was quite informative and well researched in many aspects. However, I did feel that she was a little biased when it came to the brands that she clearly admired. But still, at the end of the day, it was nice reading a book that wasn’t completely waxing poetics on the luxury industry.

    • Katherine
      October 8, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Yup – totally agree – it’s very clear that she admires Hermes – I don’t doubt that much of what she writes is true and objective but I felt there was some bias as well 🙂

  • B
    October 8, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Have read some of the above books. So enjoyed this review and the bopok by Tessaro;-)

    • Katherine
      October 8, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Oh another fan! So glad to hear somebody else read and enjoyed this book 🙂

  • Tabitha
    October 8, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I rarely read fashion books, I’m not really interested in fashion per se but I loved Deluxe, it was a great read.

  • Michelle
    October 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Another informative and interesting post! Thanks, Katherine. Really enjoy reading every single post! I have read a fashion book by Nina Garcia, The One Hundred. This book is especially useful to those who start to build the closet, like me 😉

  • Jo
    October 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I recently read ‘I Love Your Stye: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style’ by Amanda Brooks. I really enjoyed it.

    xo Jo

  • Ammu
    October 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I enjoyed Genevieve Dariaux’s Guide to Elegance, especially her dry humour.
    Also enjoyed Amanda Brooks’ I Love Your Style. Fantastic photos and a surprisingly accessible take on style and how to cultivate your own personal style.
    The Hamish Bowles’ book on Yves Saint Laurent is gorgeous, as is the volume on Balenciaga and Spain.
    I have a small volume of Andy Warhol’s fashion illustrations, which is always inspiring. His sense of colour is just magical.
    I also enjoyed Bay Garnett and Kira Joliffe’s Cheap Date Guide to Style. Witty and an easy read.

  • Jessy
    October 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for these recommendations! I love collecting fashion & coffee table books. I have a tiny collection of streetstyle based ones, but would love to expand it with your rec’s as well. : )

  • Jody Brettkelly
    October 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    A test of a good book – when your husband is engrossed in it!

    • Katherine
      October 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Ha – but probably only in the absence of a TV or other more engaging material!

  • Anouka
    October 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I would love to read these! You can never learn enough about style.

  • Happy Days 2012
    October 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I got Parisian Chic too! I’m thinking about putting the Magnificent Seven to the test and see how I can style it to look “parisian.” Here’s my blog post about it if you’ll like to take a look at it:

    That reminds me: I need to get started. ^_^

    I’ll be visiting Paris next month actually, and I’m planning on visiting a few places that Ines recommends. It’ll be my first time there, so if you also have any recommendations, I’ll be glad to hear it! 🙂

  • Lamia
    October 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Great post Katherine. I’d love to have Chanel one. Very interesting I guess.

  • Annabelle
    October 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I’ll have to check some of those out! I’m a sucker for how-to books on fashion even if I don’t actually follow their advice.

  • Prêt à Porter P
    October 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Rare Bird of Fashion, is one of these I’m always meaning to buy, it’s utterly fabulous. The big coffee table books I admit I don’t actually “read” I just flip through the pictures. I do have the MET Alexander McQueen one, Savage Beauty…??? anyway the one with the skull/face hologram.

    • Katherine
      October 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

      I’d never heard of Rare Bird – so I’ll have to try it, thank you! I need to pick up Savage Beauty as well.

  • Sascha
    October 9, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I love this post – fashion books are lovely. I loved Elegance (Kathleen’s!). Some of my favorites are Rachel Zoe’s Style from A to Zoe and Victoria Beckham’s That Extra Half an Inch.

  • Cassie
    October 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

    That Chanel book is one of my personal favourites at home. I’ve had my eye on Parisian Chic as well, but I haven’t actually made the jump to purchase it because it was wrapped in plastic and I couldn’t leaf through the inside. Now that it’s gotten a stylish thumbs up I think I will 🙂

    • Katherine
      October 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

      I hope you like it – the plastic was deterring me at the bookshop as well, though smaller ones usually have one open to flip though 🙂

  • DIva In Me
    October 9, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Wow! You definitely like to read. I’ve not been reading alot lately. My go-to fashion books for now are not even books. Just magazines =D

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    October 9, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I’ll have to go and check at my local library if they have these books you’ve listed. I’ve got the Parisian Chic which I love. I’ve got Style Clinic and Harper’s Bazaar’s Great Style which I still refer to often.

  • Melody
    October 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I love such books too!!
    I just bought the Chanel book that you have. I will check out the Parisian Chic. 🙂

  • Amy
    October 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Katherine!

    Love some of your reviews and recommendations. I received a copy of Parisian Chic for Christmas from one of my colleagues, and loved it tremendously. It certainly makes me want to hop on a plane and travel to Europe, but more than anything else, it makes me really re-think about my closet and personal style.

    One of my favorite things to do is to read the books Anthropologie sells (is there anything from the store that I don’t want?) I really enjoyed “I love Your Style” by Amanda Brooks, and would recommend it, in case you haven’t read it.


  • Elle from Elle's picturebook
    October 11, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Struggling to leave a comment on this post for some reason. Hoping it works this time!

    I too have a few of the same titles you have here – I love a good book.

    Right now I am loving the two books Vicki Archer has written French Essence…

    Elle x