Our interviews on the best fashion and style books cover everything from history to perfume. Fred Inglis, professor of cultural studies at Sheffield University, chooses his best books on the cult of celebrity. He locates the origins of this in London of the 18th century, where the leadership in fashion and style moved from the court to the city. He chooses The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century by John Brewer to illustrate this. He also chooses the Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the art of Manet and his followers by TJ Clark to illustrate how in late 19th-century Paris the Impressionists took off because “people of the day aspired to public self-display, and therefore, as we understand it, celebrity.”
Justine Picardie, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK, chooses her best fashion biographies. She chooses the The Allure of Chanel by Paul Morand, the autobiography of Christian Dior and Shocking Life: the Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli. She talks about the links between London and Paris as centres of fashion and style and what makes fashion art, if not high art.
Helena Frith-Powell, author of Two Lipsticks and a Lover (published in the US as All you need to be impossibly French) talks about glamour. She argues that glamour is not only about how you look, but “how you act, and how you feel. And how well read you are, and how interesting you are” about “knowing how to live, more than anything else.”
Her first choice on the back of that is Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David. She also chooses Gigi and the Cat by Colette, Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and A guide to Elegance by Antoine Dariaux. All these books contribute something to understanding that certain je ne sais quoi, beyond mere beauty, fashion and style, that makes a woman glamorous.
Denise Hamilton chooses her best books on perfume. As with Justine Picardie and fashion, Hamilton insists that perfume is an art form “as eminently worthy of being studied and appreciated as painting, music or sculpture”.