Fashionistas daunt gift givers. If they really want a fashion item, they likely buy it, unless it busts the budget, which probably means it busts the giver’s too.
Fashion books provide a nice solution, balancing aspiration with attainability. Each year publishers release an assortment of titles around the holidays, at least one of which is bound to speak to your fashionista’s sensibilities. Here are some that spoke to us:• “Kate: The Kate Moss Book” (Rizzoli, $85): It may seem gratuitous to dedicate 448 oversized pages to one waif of a model, even a supermodel, who, when she started at age 14, might have weighed as much as this book. That is, until one sees the breadth of looks she can convey from page to page: Brigitte Bardot on one, Kurt Cobain on another. Which may be why eight different covers were issued. The range reflects Moss’ belief in “keeping the mystery,” as she says at the start of the book, though she refutes rumors she suffered anorexia and used heroin in her ’90s heyday.
• “Decades: A Century of Fashion” (Bloomsbury, $60): Cameron Silver’s LA boutique Decades has made him a celebrity among celebrities. For 15 years, stars have worn his vintage couture on the red carpet and beyond. Now, he has poured his archival knowledge onto paper. Each chapter opens with a pair of women who epitomize the contrasting trends of that decade: Cheryl Tiegs’ sunny, athletic sexiness versus Bianca Jagger’s dark disco allure, for example. Chapters close with a designer of the decade. In between are photos of Hollywood icons such as Rita Hayworth, who made the white halter dress hot before Marilyn Monroe.
• “Vogue: The Editor’s Eye” and “W: The First 40 Years” (Abrams, $75 each): It’s as if these covers were switched at the printer. The Vogue book, marking the magazine’s 120th anniversary, features a punk-hairstyled Rooney Mara fresh off “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” W’s, celebrating its 40th year, features a model with a regal updo ready for a masquerade ball. But the DNA of each magazine becomes clear on the inner pages of each book. Vogue never breaches the barrier of good taste, whereas W walks the line in spreads that occasionally feature nudity and regularly provoke controversy (like the “Domestic Bliss” fantasy shoot featuring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt just after his breakup with Jennifer Aniston). Vogue’s book illuminates its influence through interviews with its top editors through the years, including Polly Allen Mellen.
• “Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art” (Yale, $45): What constitutes beauty? asks Aileen Ribeiro in this survey of four centuries of art, advertising, literature and lifestyle. In Venice in 1554, beauty consisted in part of hair bleached blond, via concoctions of vine ashes, lemons, white wine and alum, with the roots deliberately left dark. In the Renaissance, the small black patches that flecked fashionable faces sometimes had another function: as coverage for the pustules caused by syphilis.
• “Fifty Fashion Looks That Changed the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s” (Conran Octopus, $20 each): The latest iterations in the Design Museum “Fifty” series, the three novel-size source books present a straightforward page of text facing a photo for each iconic look. From the 1950s, the bikini spread features a photo of Bardot and includes Diana Vreeland’s definition of the invention: “a swoonsuit that exposed everything about a girl except her mother’s maiden name.”
• “Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion” (Celebra, $25.95): As much a love story as a fashion book, this memoir illuminates the journey of Cuba-born designer Isabel Toledo, whose lemon-grass ensemble made history when Michelle Obama wore it on Inauguration Day in 2009. It is illustrated by husband Ruben Toledo, whose work has become a hallmark of Nordstrom’s marketing. The two met at age 14 and have inspired and enchanted each other since. Toledo writes of dropping out of New York Fashion Week, that rare breed of designer who thrives on the fringe.
• “Mario Testino: In Your Face” (Taschen, $59.99): Another icon of ’90s fashion and pop culture, photographer Mario Testino lays out some of his most provocative work, including the Gucci campaign in which a girl’s nether region is shaved into a G motif. Candids and stunning spreads paint a picture of a photographer who, Sienna Miller told Vogue editor Anna Wintour, “gets the best of you, because he makes you mirror his openness.” Thus, the abundance of bare skin in this soft-cover retrospective.