The lucky library crew who get to select the big books on the important things in life like clothes and jewellery have been excelling themselves lately. Some true beauties have come through and I have been having a good guzzle of their gorgeousness. I hope there will always be books like this; books that you are excited to see, to hold in your hands and feel their satisfying heft, to turn their pages looking at them really, really closely.
So you didn’t get to see the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute – Schiaparelli and Prada: Imposssible Conversations is almost as good as being there. Judith Thurman’s introductory essay is everything we expect after reading her in The New Yorker; really good writing about clothes, the people who make them and the people who wear them. Then there are the photographs and the cunning little postcard-sized inserts of the imaginary conversations between these two Italian designers.
The New Jewelers has 800 illustrations of “desirable, collectable, contemporary” jewelery – enough to set off tragic dreams of winning Lotto or giving up coffee for the next twenty years to afford one of these pieces.
Coming into fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast is a book of photographs of some of the most beautiful clothes from the last hundred years worn by some of the most beautiful women in some of the most preposterous poses. My standout is a model in a maillot standing on a beach holding a kangaroo by the paw.
Vogue:The editor’s eye gives an insight into the women who came up with these mad ideas. The women who said “let’s take Richard Avedon and a bunch of models to Japan for five weeks for one photo shoot”.
The budgets may have shrunk since 1947 but the creativity hasn’t – just look at the Grace Coddington chapter.
Hollywood Costume is a celebration of 100 years of clothes in film and how they help create the identity of the characters who wear them. All the familiar images are here; Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Vivien Leigh swathed in “Miz Ellen’s poteers” in Gone With the Wind and Elizabeth Taylor spectacularly historically incorrect in Cleopatra. Sometimes the words in books like this seem to be merely space fillers between the photographs but the essays here are really interesting – Meryl Streep describes herself as “a real pain in the ass for every costume designer” because she took her degree in costume design and wrote her thesis on it.
What’s your favourite big beautiful book?