Five of the best fashion memoirs | Books

From glamorous parties to celebrity meltdowns, the world of fashion continues to capture the zeitgeist. For those who want a deeper look into the lives of some of its biggest players, here are a selection of the most memorable memoirs.


Fashion loves to gossip and Tina Brown’s memoir of her dazzling career is packed full of sizzling muckraking, spanning everyone from Clint Eastwood (“hard work: long, taciturn silences”) to Boris Johnson (“an epic shit”). Based on the diaries she kept as the editor of Vanity Fair, the book covers an era of excess, and Brown, fresh to New York City from the UK, takes it all in with a sharp eye for detail. Stories of power plays at black-tie dinners are interspersed with office politics as Brown turns around the flagging magazine with her “high-low journalism” approach. She convinced Ronald and Nancy Reagan to kiss for one cover, and a naked seven months pregnant Demi Moore for another – leading to the publication being banned by Walmart in the US.


Grace by Grace Coddington

Up until 2009, Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington worked very much behind the scenes. Then along came the documentary The September Issue, which explored the inner workings of the magazine, and Coddington somewhat reluctantly was shunted into the spotlight. Charting her ascent from her rural Welsh childhood to the upper echelons of fashion, Coddington’s memoir features anecdotes about working with Norman Parkinson, Peter Lindbergh, Azzedine Alaïa and Karl Lagerfeld to name a few. The book is also scattered somewhat abruptly with Coddington’s more personal, often tragic tales – including a car accident that severed her eyelid and the unexpected death of her sister. As a creator of some of fashion’s most memorable and wildly imaginative shoots, it’s the insights she offers into how she conjured them up that are most satisfying.

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“I dreamed of meeting Naomi Sims and Pat Cleveland, and living a life like the ones I saw in the pages of Vogue, where bad things never happened,” writes Talley in the opening chapter. The larger-than-life editor, who died in 2022, documents his journey from growing up black and poor in North Carolina to becoming a firm fashion fixture with stints at Andy Warhol’s Interview and Vogue, until Anna Wintour as he reveals, froze him out leaving him with “huge emotional and psychological scars”. There are tales of clubbing with Karl Lagerfeld and flying private jets with Naomi Campbell which he describes as “the seventh circle of hell”.


Discovered on his death in 2016, this memoir chronicles the early years of Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer known for his signature uniform of a blue chore jacket, khakis and a point and shoot camera. Though he was famously private, it offers a more intimate look at his formative years, from his strict Catholic upbringing (he was beaten when his mother discovered him trying on his sister’s dresses) and his stint in the US army (he decorated his helmet with flowers) to his eventual move to New York City in the 50s where he began his career in journalism. An astute observer, he writes about the lengths he would go to in order to be a fly on the wall: “Today I can hardly find my way through the legitimate entrance of the Waldorf but I could take you blindfolded through all the fire exits and kitchens leading to the ballroom.”


DV by Diana Vreeland

The designer Bill Blass said that reading DV is: “Almost as marvellous as an evening with DV herself – same magic, same spontaneity and above all, never a boring moment.” Its 196 pages make for a compelling albeit slightly chaotic read, spanning everything from the pioneering fashion editor’s childhood in 20th-century Paris and her 25-year career at Harper’s Bazaar to pronouncements including: “Toast should be brown and black. Asparagus should be sexy and almost fluid.”

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