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The Best Books for People Who Love Fashion History


If there's one thing that sets fashion apart from other industries, it's how trends are ultimately cyclical. For instance, our previous article discusses how the fashion movement aims to promote equality, inclusivity, and self-expression by steering away from defining style by gender. However, did you know that this is a concept that can be traced back to the late 1960s? When looking at gender-neutral fashion through the lens of fashion history, it becomes easier to understand its current popularity and the rising interest in gender identity variations as a natural result of its origins in the Civil Rights movement and feminism.

That being said, fashion history serves as a vital roadmap for understanding the ever-evolving landscape of trends, styles, and societal shifts. Understanding this history can help us gain valuable insights into the origins and evolution of fashion movements, shedding light on their cultural significance and lasting impact. Below, we discuss four of our favorite books on fashion history and where to find them.

Where to find these books

In today's digital age, accessing a vast array of fashion history literature has become more convenient than ever with the emergence of subscription platforms. The digital library Everand allows access to a diverse range of ebooks and audiobooks for an affordable price, whether it's classics like Elizabeth Barber’s Women’s Work or popular publications like Deborah Ball’s House of Versace. The best part is that readers can navigate this vast catalog using the platform’s combination of editorial expertise and machine learning, which makes it easier to delve into the rich tapestry of fashion history from the comfort of one’s own device.

For more obscure titles, enthusiasts may need to engage in some extensive searching and be prepared for heftier price points. See how the online shop Offbrand Library is a haven for fashion aficionados in search of unique and sought-after publications. Here, one can find coveted items like the inaugural issue of the Berlin culture biannual 032c, priced at over $700. While this may seem steep, the price point is warranted by the book owners' dedicated sourcing alongside the material’s rarity. This is particularly helpful for obscure materials on fashion history but may not be the best fit for readers on a budget.

The Best Books for Fashion History Enthusiasts

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

From the earliest clothing crafted from spun fibers to the intricate garments of ancient civilizations, Barber traces the often-overlooked role of women in the development of fashion and society. True fashion history lovers will appreciate this comprehensive exploration of the cultural significance of women's work in shaping the fabric of human civilization.

Jane Austen Embroidery: Regency Patterns Reimagined for Modern Stitchers by Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin

Fans of Women’s Work will enjoy its application to Jane Austen's novels here at Jane Austen Embroidery. This book combines historical research with practical projects, offering a glimpse into the world of Regency-era needlework. With patterns inspired by Austen's novels and the fashion of her time, readers can embark on their own creative journey while learning about the role of embroidery in Austen's life and works.

House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival by Deborah Ball

For a closer look at the dark side of fashion history, House of Versace offers a behind-the-scenes look at the highs and lows of the Versace dynasty. From its humble beginnings to its meteoric rise and the turbulent events that shaped its legacy, Ball provides readers with intricate details of the fashion industry and the larger-than-life personalities that defined an era.

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Eric Boman 

Filled with captivating photographs curated by Eric Boman, Rare Bird of Fashion celebrates the maximalist, take-no-prisoners personal style of Iris Apfel that continues to equally baffle and impress style icons today. Fashion history enthusiasts will delight in exploring Apfel's unique aesthetic and the lasting impact of her bold and unconventional style on the fashion world.

In the world of fashion, understanding history is key to appreciating the present and shaping the future. For more on fashion, lifestyle, and beauty, check out our blog and editorials on QP Mag


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