As we were just reminded earlier this week, it’s hard to forget that scene in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep, portraying Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour, delivers a jeremiad on the importance of fashion to a flippant Anne Hathaway,  playing Streep’s sartorially challenged, too-intellectual-to-worry-about-clothes assistant.  Streep’s withering disquisition on the significance of fashion and the ignorance of those who assume that awareness of style, designers and clothes betokens limited intelligence, underscores her passion for the luxe, the beautiful world she sits atop. Precisely, Streep cites the jobs created by the industry, the money fashion generates, and the beautiful clothes that influence the way everyone dresses, including those who favor pilled sweaters.

We too take fashion seriously at this site.  In this vein, we thought we’d suggest three books, each a primer on the importance of all things fashion.

Fifty Dresses that Changed the World, a beautiful volume from the Design Museum in London, will resonate with anyone who has worn a dress in the this century or the last.  Savor the visual shout outs to the wrap dress, little black numbers, including Audrey Hepburn in the iconic dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Twiggy in the modish mini, the midi dress, Marilyn Monroe’s white number from the film The Seven Year Itch. There’s everything from the shirtwaist to the shift, the bandage dresses of the 1980s, and the Flower Power maxi dress.  Doubtless everyone owned at least one if not several of the dresses here.  The book is great fun as well as a refresher course in one’s past.

Simone Werle’s Fashionista, A Century of Style Icons reminds us of the stylish women who have shaped our universe and influenced our style.  A rollcall of the glamorous, the daring, and the brave women who signed their names with their outfits:  Marlene Dietrich, the aforementioned Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Babe Paley, and some less obvious but nevertheless significant choices—Björk, Chloë Sevigny, and Grace Jones, pathbreakers all.

Fashion: The 50 Most Influential Fashion Designers of All Time, by Bonnie English, is a primer on the creators of the signal pieces and movements in fashion of the 20th century: Jean Patou, creator of Joy, the essential fragrance for many; of course, Chanel; Mary Quant, creator of the Mod look, the signature of sixties London; Ralph Lauren, who inscribed a pedigreed American look on the world; Levi Strauss, father of the signature jean, Versace, whose every work was an ode to the female form, are just some of the notable creators of timeless style.

Each of these books contributes to an understanding of the importance of style.


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  • quintessence June 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Fun post and GREAT intro!! The fact that this intelligent resourceful site includes a fashion column hopefully indicates that an awareness of style, designers and clothes does NOT betoken limited intelligence. Can’t wait to take a look at these volumes!!