Biography and Memoir: picks from our July newsletter

Some picks from our July Biography and Memoir newsletter:

Cover: Vineyard VirginsCover: In the Body of the WorldCover: Sarah Vaughan is not my MotherCover: Where the Rainbow Fell DownCover: Anna Amalia, Grand DuchessCover: A Dog Walks into a Nursing HomeCover: The Road Out of HellCover: Lucky MeCover: She Left Me the Gun

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For more great biographies and memoirs, check out our lists of winners of  the Costa Biography Award.

“Fashion is instant language”

History of Fashion New Look to NowOr so Miuccia Prada thinks. If that is true, the language is spoken like a native in the latest crop of big beautiful fashion books to land on the new books shelf.

History of Fashion New Look to Now speaks fashion magazine language, which is not surprising as its author has written for fashion magazines for over 40 years. It’s not an academic look at fashion, but it’s a very enjoyable one. June Marsh has a readable style and is very good at placing the clothes in the world they were worn in. The plentiful photographs help – clothes as worn on the runway, on the red carpet and even a few worn by civilians on the street.

New Fashion Photography is much more about the images, but then it would be, wouldn’t it, given that it is a selection of photographs by over 20 of the most innovative photographers working in fashion. I’m not sure what language this book is speaking because I didn’t read many of the words, although my eye did alight on phrases like ” a neat riposte to the tradition of the male gaze”  and “fearlessness in its desire to harness unexpected threat”. I was too busy fearlessly doing my own gazing at the sometimes utterly mad but always engrossing photographs. Most of them are epic failures at displaying the clothes, which is presumably not the point, but they are very beautiful.

Paris Haute CoutureAmanda, Lady Harlech, says wearing couture is like wearing nothing; you can’t feel the seams. She should know, seeing as how she’s been a muse to John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld and keeps her couture in a suite at the Paris Ritz. For those of us who are unlikely to ever know what it feels like not to feel the seams, Paris Haute Couture gives some idea of the artistry involved in making the clothes entitled to be called haute couture.

Photographs of items from the collection of the Musée Galliera, Paris’s museum of fashion, are presented in unadorned glory – one item to a page. No pesky models to distract from the beauty of the clothes, and not just clothes; shoes, bags, buttons and (sigh) jewellery.

If you can tear yourself away from the photographs, the text is just as good. From the late 1880s to 1970 each decade has a chapter featuring pieces by historians, curators and other experts. This is where the smaller photos of actual people wearing the clothes can be found. If the models can be called people and not freaks of nature. Which they can’t.