the focus of fashion may be the here and now, but the best fashion books tend to take a more retrospective approach. Aileen Ribeiro's A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery (National Portrait Gallery, £24.95) takes a closer look at the clothing and costumes on show in the gallery's extensive collections. Focusing on such a vast swathe of time means that there are huge changes in dress to chart, while a more recent period proves just how quickly the fashions of today are shifting.
Your coffee table may need reinforcing in order to bear Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue (Phaidon, £100), but it is an investment worth making for a collection of incredible images. This reissue of a tome from 2002 celebrates the work of stylist Grace Coddington – star of the documentary The September Issue – during her three decades at Vogue UK and US. Rather than append more recent work, an accompanying edition is instead slated for release next year. For that, the Anglesey-born Coddington, 74, will again collaborate with the acerbic and insightful Michael Roberts.
Another book that charts a chunk of recent fashion history is Invitation Strictly Personal (Goodman, £30), a compilation of the beautiful, novel and downright bizarre fashion show invitations that the journalist and academic Iain R Webb has collected over four decades in the industry.
A similar technique is used to great effect in Nilgin Yusuf's Fashion's Front Line: Fashion Show Photography from the Runway to Backstage (Bloomsbury, £25), which chronicles the nascent days of the catwalk scene in London and its international counterparts through the work of photographer Niall McInerney. Some of the best insights comes from McInerney and his contemporaries, including the designer Anthony Price and hairstylist Sam McKnight.
Alexander McQueen's death in 2010 was a huge loss for the fashion world but his work lives on. This year, Savage Beauty, the largest-ever retrospective of McQueen's work, was accompanied by Alexander McQueen (V&A, £25). This catalogue of essays, photographs and illustrations looks at the many facets of the complex designer and his theatrical catwalk shows, as does Andrew Wilson's excellent biography Blood Beneath the Skin (Simon & Schuster, £25), which starts at the very beginning of the designer's tale, thanks to input from the tight-knit McQueen clan.
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