At Stylish Academic, we believe that style is a state of mind, an attitude, an intellectual proposition, and a philosophy.
Dress tells our stories, and fashion writing renders those stories in text.
Recent years have seen the publication of countless books – from the genres of memoir, photo essay, interview and literature – exploring why we wear what we wear, and testifying to the personal, political and pleasurable power of dress.
From the eccentric aesthete to the fashionista and high-street shopper, these stories will inspire.
So, whether you are dressed up for the commute to work, or at home in your pyjamas, here is a list of stylish reading material from Stylish Academic Fashion Editor and passionate writer and reader, Madeleine Seys.
These are must-reads for the thinking dresser.
#1 Anthony Lycett. Self.Styled: Dare to Be Different. Jacqui Small, 2016
“What does it mean to put one’s self on show?” (1)
A collection of stories from fabulously stylish and unique dressers, Self.Styled is a powerful reflection on dress as a tool for radical self-expression in a world of conformity and anonymity.
Through images and text sparkling with style and wit, Self.Styled documents the lives and wardrobes of those that dare to be different.
This is a beautiful addition to your bookshelf or coffee table.
#2 Tracy Tynan. Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life. Duckworth Publishers, 2014
“Clothing offered me a way to be noticed and accepted” (4)
Costume designer Tracy Tynan tells her life story through 36 garments.
From her mother Elaine Dundy’s perfume scented fur coat to the fashionable avant-garde of 1960s’ London, precious pearls to a high street white t-shirt dress, Tracy Tynan weaves the story of her amazing life through her dress, its wear, and tear.
A stunning sartorial coming of age from a woman genetically destined to be obsessed with clothes.
#3 Linda Grant. The Thoughtful Dresser. Virago, 2009
“The thinking woman’s guide to our relationship with what we wear: why we want to look our best and why it matters” (blurb)
Linda Grant collects stories testifying to the power and pleasure of dress, across time and place.
From dressing wrong to dressing right, The Thoughtful Dresser explores how dress tells our stories.
From an incisive summary of modern fashion theory, to how a hat saved a woman in Nazi Germany, this is a fiercely intelligent and witty book on the power of dress.
#4 Emily Spivack (editor). Worn Stories: Sartorial Memoirs. Princeton Architectural Press, 2015.
“Our clothes are full of memory and meaning” (6)
Worn Stories is a collection of 67 memoirs in cloth.
Editor Emily Spivak asked respondents to “select a piece of clothing still in your possession with a compelling story behind it, whether something spectacular, unexpected, weird, wonderful or momentous happened while you were wearing it” (7).
The result is a collection of carefully curated garments and essays.
From the story of a treasured vintage suit to a tatty t-shirt of unknown provenance, Worn Stories reminds us that, while some would discount dress as frivolous and superficial, our clothing has deep roots in memory and the passions.
It bears out stories in its tears and stains.
#5 Madison Moore. Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric. Yale University Press, 2018.
“Fabulousness [is] a form of cultural criticism that allows those who perform it to thrive in a world where they are not supposed to exist” (blurb)
An amazing new examination of what it means to be fabulous – and why eccentric and individual style and creativity are more political than ever before.
Moore’s book is a striking and engaging combination of fashion writing, autobiography, cultural analysis, and ethnography, exploring how peoples from marginalized groups harness the power of dress to say “I dare to be” in a world that has rendered them invisible.
#6 Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton (editors). Women in Clothes. Particular Books, 2014
“Women in Clothes is a book unlike any other” (1)
Based on 624 interviews, Women in Clothes is a collection of essays, conversations, and lists, cataloguing women’s complex relationships with their clothes, and with each other.
Stains are photographed as artworks, lost and damaged clothes are mourned, and wardrobes are catalogued like museum collections.
Women in Clothes is an encyclopedic exploration of the questions we ask ourselves when we’re getting dressed, and the global communities and we forge through the language of dress.
#7 Giuseppe Santamaria. Women in this Town. hardie grant Books, 2017
“An individual who dresses for themselves and doesn’t care what others think” (9)
Based on Giuseppe Sanatmaria’s blog by the same title, Women in This Town is a stunning combination of street style photography and interviews with unique and stylish dressers from New York, Paris, Melbourne, Tokyo, Madrid, and London.
The book isn’t interested in fashion, but in unique and individual style and why we dress the way we do.
Peruse its pages for insight and inspiration alike.
#8 Carol Ann Duffy. Out of Fashion: An Anthology of Poems. Faber and Faber, 2004
“A poem, if you like, is the attire of feeling: the literary form where words seem tailor-made for memory and desire” (xi)
Poetry is not, perhaps, the most obvious genre for fashion writing.
From William Shakespeare, John Donne and Robert Herrick, to Thomas Hardy, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy herself, however, poets have been drawn on the power of dress as a tool for nostalgia, seduction and self-transformation.
In Out of Fashion, British poet-laureate Carol Ann Duffy collects poems by writers past and present, weaving an exquisite tale of love, desire, birth, memory, loss and death.
If poetry is the attire of feeling, then dress is the body’s poetry.