The 10 All-Time Best Books on Fashion History

Are you looking to learn more about fashion history? From the origins of clothing to the modern day, these ten books will give you a comprehensive understanding of fashion through the ages.

 From studies on specific designers to examinations of cultural influences on fashion, there’s something for everyone on this list. 

So whether you’re a fashion student or just interested in learning more about this fascinating topic, check out these must-read books on fashion history.

Clothing Goes to War: Creativity Inspired by Scarcity in World War II by Nan Turner 

In “Clothing Goes to War: Creativity Inspired by Scarcity in World War II” Nan Turner explores the fascinating history of how clothing design was affected by the scarcity of resources during World War II. 

Unlike previous wars, World War II involved many women recruited to work in factories and other essential jobs.

As a result, there was significant demand for practical and stylish clothing that could be worn at work and in leisure time. Designers responded to this challenge by creating both functional and fashionable garments. 

Using novel materials such as nylons and rayon, along with innovative construction techniques, resulted in a new type of clothing that was both stylish and affordable. The war also had a profound impact on the way clothes were marketed and advertised. 

For example, many advertisements featured models wearing patriotic clothing or posing with American flags to promote patriotism. 

Although the war created many challenges for designers, it also spurred innovation and creativity that continue to influence fashion today.


Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon by Megan Hess

In her book, Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon, Megan Hess explores the life and work of the legendary fashion designer.

Born in poverty in 1883, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel worked her way up to become one of her most successful and influential women. 

She pioneered new styles and changed how women dressed, helping liberate them from the constrictions of corsets and other traditional clothing. 

Chanel was also a businesswoman, launching her perfume line and fashion label that is still going strong today. 

Hess’s book tells Chanel’s story through a series of beautiful illustrations, providing readers with a unique and visually stunning look at the world of one of fashion’s biggest icons.


In Vogue: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine

In Vogue: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine tells the story of one of the most influential publications in the fashion industry. 

The book chronicles the magazine’s evolution from a small society journal to a global powerhouse, tracing its impact on popular culture and fashion trends over the past century. 

Featuring more than 300 illustrations, including original photographs, sketches, and paintings, In Vogue offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the world of fashion and the people who have shaped it. 

From its early days as a Society rag to its current status as a cultural force, In Vogue provides readers with an insightful and entertaining history of one of the most iconic magazines in the world.


The Little Book of Hermès: The Story of the Iconic Fashion House By Karen Homer

Hermès is one of the most iconic fashion houses in the world, renowned for its luxurious and timeless designs.

 In “The Little Book of Hermès,” Karen Homer tells the story of how this legendary brand was founded and how it has managed to maintain its unique identity over the years. 

The book begins with a brief history of the company, founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. Hermes was originally a supplier of horse-drawn carriages and harnesses, but he soon began to produce other luxury items such as handbags and jewelry. 

The company soon became known for its exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail, attracting an elite clientele. 

In the early 20th century, Hermès expanded into new markets such as ready-to-wear clothing and home furnishings. Today, Hermès remains true to its roots, producing high-quality products that are cherished by generations of fans. 

“The Little Book of Hermès” is a fascinating read for anyone interested in fashion or luxury brands.


Fashion History: A Global View (Dress, Body, Culture) by Linda Welters and Abby Lillethun

Fashion History: A Global View is a comprehensive and well-illustrated history of dress and the body from a global perspective. The authors, Linda Welters and Abby Lillethun have drawn on a wide range of sources to provide an insightful and engaging overview of the development of fashion from prehistory to the present day. 

One of the book’s strengths is its attention to the diversity of dress traditions worldwide. The authors do an excellent job of situating dress within its social and cultural context, providing readers with a rich understanding of the role that clothing plays in different societies. 

Another strength of the book is its use of visual images to illustrate key points. The numerous photographs, paintings, and drawings included in the volume provide a vivid sense of the variety of dress practices throughout history. 

Fashion History: A Global View is an informative and engaging history of dress that will be valuable for students and scholars alike.


What People Wore When by Melissa Leventon

In her book, What People Wore When, Melissa Leventon delves into the fascinating history of fashion.

Spanning centuries and cultures, the book provides a detailed account of the clothing worn by people from all walks of life. From the simple tunics of ancient Rome to the elaborate gowns of 18th-century France, Leventon brings the past to life with her vivid descriptions and insightful analysis.

In addition to providing a wealth of information about fashion history, the book also includes more than 500 photographs, many of which are rare and have never been published before. 

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or simply curious about the past, What People Wore When is sure to enlighten and entertain.


Paris: Through a Fashion Eye by Megan Hess

Megan Hess’ “Paris: Through a Fashion Eye” is a delightful collection of hand-drawn illustrations that capture the essence of the world’s most fashionable city. 

Hess has an uncanny ability to capture the intricate details of Parisian architecture and fashion, and her illustrations are both stylish and sophisticated. 

In addition to gorgeous illustrations of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Hess also includes detailed drawings of couture dresses, accessories, and jewelry. 

“Paris: Through a Fashion Eye” is a truly unique and beautiful book that any fashion lover will surely enjoy.


Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity by Monica L. Miller

In her book Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, Monica L. Miller explores the origins and significance of black dandyism. 

The term “dandy” typically conjures images of white, upper-class men who are meticulously dressed and groomed. However, as Miller demonstrates, the dandy is not limited to one social class or race. 

Drawing on many sources, including literature, music, film, and fashion magazines, she shows how black dandies have used style to subvert racial stereotypes and assert their own identity. 

For example, by adopting the trappings of whiteness – such as top hats and canes – they could critique white supremacy while also celebrating blackness. 

In doing so, they created a unique visual language that has influenced the black diasporic identity.


Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History Paperback by Richard Thompson Ford  

Richard Thompson Ford’s Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History is a fascinating and thought-provoking book that examines fashion’s role in shaping society.

Through a series of case studies, Ford explores how dress codes have been used to reinforce social norms and how they have been used to challenge existing power structures. 

He also discusses how the law has often been used to regulate what people can and cannot wear, and he argues that dress codes can be both oppressive and liberating. 

It’s an insightful and illuminating book that will change how you think about fashion and its impact on society.


The Chronicle of Western Costume: From the Ancient World to the Late Twentieth Century by John Peacock  

The Chronicle of Western Costume: From the Ancient World to the Late Twentieth Century is an essential work for anyone interested in fashion history. 

Written by noted costume historian John Peacock, the book provides a detailed and fascinating account of the evolution of Western dress. 

Peacock traces the origins of modern fashion back to ancient Greece and Rome and looks at how clothing styles have changed over the centuries in response to social, economic, and political developments. 

He also discusses how Other cultures, including the East have influenced western costumes. Illustrated with over 1,000 drawings and photographs, The Chronicle of Western Costume is a comprehensive and visually stunning resource that will appeal to fashion lovers and historians alike.


If you’re interested in fashion history, any of these ten books are a great place to start. From ancient civilizations to the present day, each book provides an in-depth look at different aspects of fashion history. So what are you waiting for? Start reading and learning about the fascinating world of fashion history!

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