You’ll Love This List If You’re a Bona Fide Fashion Nerd

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Even if you’ve been reading Savoir Flair for years, here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I was studying to be a professor of philosophy before my career in fashion took off. It might sound like a strange pivot, but since my start as a fashion journalist, I have noticed a strong correlation between fashion and higher learning. Where most people think of fashion as simply clothes, I believe it is humanity’s most vital form of non-verbal communication. I think of it as the most humanistic of art forms, a cure for low self-esteem, and so much more. Fashion quite literally is my raison d’être.

On the surface, fashion seems to be devoid of depth, but when you dive deeper, a thrilling new universe opens up. By critically engaging with its theories and concepts, you can learn so much about the world and the people who live in it. Think of it as the perfect blend of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy, and you’ll see why brainy girls find a lot to love in the field of fashion.

The list below is cultivated from years of intense study, meaning I have personally read (and re-read) every single one of these books. You’ll discover a world where fashion is a social and cultural signifier, an epic drama, and an empire. Bon voyage!


The Language of Fashion

by Roland Barthes

Having derived from the mind of Roland Barthes, the legendary semiologist and France’s pre-eminent cultural critic in the 1960s, this is by far the densest book on the list. In The Language of Fashion, Barthes delineates cultural changes as reflected by fashion’s evolution and discusses its importance as a form of non-verbal communication. His thought-provoking analysis teases out connections between anthropology, psychology, and the human condition, cross-applying it to fashion’s terminology in ways that will delight the mind.

Buy it here.


Fashion: A Philosophy

by Lars Svendsen

While fashion might appear to be a shallow and disaffected industry, it is built upon a philosophical foundation. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have been dealing with its merits since time immemorial. No one makes the philosophy behind fashion easier to understand than Lars Svendsen, who adeptly tackles fashion as a language, fashion as it relates to art, fashion and consumerism, and more.

Buy it here.

reading in bed
Photo: Courtesy of Lakoko


by Christopher Breward

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in fashion and want a crash course in its history, this is the only book you need to buy. This colorfully illustrated tome offers a complete look at fashion from its origins and how it is produced to how it is marketed in the present day. You’ll learn about its rise from the courts of Spain and France to its rendering by artful designers like Yohji Yamamoto. You’ll discover its relationship to the world of cinema and how fashion magazines came to be. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know is contained in this slick volume, which beats out endless Wikipedia searches any day.

Buy it here.


The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History

by Robin Givhan

While historical non-fiction books tend to be a snoozefest, Robin Givhan’s brilliantly researched and written book is a total page-turner. Not only does The Battle of Versailles illuminate a significant moment in fashion’s history – when American designers were finally given legitimacy by the fashion establishment – but it also contains lots of juicy details about flashy fashion personalities, behind-the-scenes quarrels, and ego clashes galore.

Buy it here.

The Battle of Versailles flat lay
Photo: Courtesy of @JustinWinkelman

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion

by Holly Brubach

From a young girl with a passion for clothes to one of the industry’s most important critical voices, Holly Brubach has managed to preserve her career in her book. This collection of essays and critiques of the industry spans the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, during which fashion saw the most upheaval thanks to massive influxes of cash from multinational conglomerates. Her witty voice and tremendous insights into the business of fashion and the evolution of brands like Chanel are indispensable to the fashion lover.

Buy it here.


The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever

by Teri Agins

Although The End of Fashion is sorely in need of an update, it’s an important chronicle of how fashion has changed drastically in a short amount of time due to globalization and the increasing pressures of marketing. In it, author Teri Agins argues that fashion’s era of being defined by elite designers whose creations trickled down to the mainstream is long over. Licensing, retailing, and marketing practices embraced by the modern designer are packaged with cautionary tales that warn of fashion’s new obsession with the bottom line.

Buy it here.


Fashion Theory: A Reader

by Malcolm Barnard

Fashion might look simple on the surface, but this weighty tome dives into its complex, theoretical side. The collection of thoughtful essays – each written by an expert – deals with topics such as post-modernism and fashion, consumerism, fashion history, and more. The coverage of fashion theory in all of its forms is comprehensively outlined by this book, which incidentally is college-level material taught at actual fashion schools around the world.

Buy it here.

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