With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, FAJO has carefully selected and reviewed five books about prominent women, who are successful, artistic and creative. Some of them also happen to be mothers themselves.
The five personalities selected also have one thing in common: they are acclaimed style icons with a signature style and have each left their mark on the fashion world.
Audrey: The 50s by David Wills
Three decades after her demise, Audrey Hepburn is still an ultimate fashion icon for generations of women, from those who grew up with her movies to those who admire her through the memory of pop cultural appropriation of her image. Wills has published his second book on the actress Audrey: The 50s, after his critically-acclaimed Audrey: The 60s.
This beautiful book explores the creation of Audrey Hepburn, from the model and aspirational dancer to Hollywood’ most favourable actress and fashion icon. The publication includes a 23-page introductory essay on Hepburn’s rise to fame and 230 pages of gorgeous images in chronological order, from “Audrey Ingenue 1950-1952” to “The Nun’s Story 1959”. Images are accompanied by quotes of people who worked with the actress, from directors and costars to, very importantly, costume designers Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy. Quotes by Hepburn herself are also included.
With images and quotes, Wills explores how Hepburn became a fashion icon through feminine tropes, such as a Cinderella story that she represented in her most iconic movies—The Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Funny Face—as well as how her on-screen and off-screen personalities merged into one. Her image was cohesive, time-appropriate, universal and attainable.
The book features renowned images of Hepburn, as well as some rare and never-before-seen photographs. This includes images from promotional posters, film sets, her home photos, as well as pictures from photoshoots and award shows. All of them represent the grace and sophistication that the actress carried out throughout the 1950s.
Recommended for: Audrey: The 50s would make a great gift for any mom, who is interested not only in the actress herself, but also in Hollywood, glamour, fashion or photography. It would make a great coffee table book or a solid addition to a home library.
Brigitte Bardot: My Life in Fashion by Henry-Jean Servat
The book Brigitte Bardot: My Life in Fashion is a beautiful dedication to the legendary French actress and her iconic style, published at the end of 2016 by Flammarion.
As a French journalist, Henry-Jean Servat, has been very lucky to maintain a friendly relationship with Bardot, who is infamously outspoken in France. She quit filming in 1973 and has been fully devoted to protecting animal rights since then. For this book, she provided the foreword and gave an interview to the author about her relationship with fashion and her iconic wardrobe, which she auctioned to raise funds to launch her foundation.
The book consists of fabulous images of Bardot, starting from her early modelling days as a cover girl for Elle magazine in early 1950s up until 1975, when she stopped her film career. The images portray her in photoshoots and magazine spreads, on film sets and at events, as well as at parties. There are also some paparazzi-styled photos.
Even though this isn’t a strictly biographical book, it provides a route of development of Bardot’s career and her rise to international fame, as well as a global fascination about the actress after the American success of her film And God Created Woman (1956). The author explores the youth spirit, innocence and incredible sex appeal that Bardot possessed, and that made her stand out among other actresses.
Servat also describes Bardot’s style during certain periods and films. He explores her relationship with various fashion houses and designers, from Balmain, Dior and Chanel to her favourite Real and Jean Bouquin. Memories of designers like Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin are also featured, highlighting Bardot’s authority and influence on global fashion. The pages are accompanied with quotes about the actress and her style by people who worked with her and/or admired her, from Diana Vreeland to Pamela Anderson.
Recommended for: This book would make a great gift for anyone who has been fascinated by Brigitte Bardot, French fashion and glamour, cinema and photography.
Frida Kahlo: Fashion as The Art of Being by Susana Martinez Vidal
Last year, Assoulin published a luxurious edition of a book, devoted to an iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her legacy in fashion. Susana Martinez Vidal, a fashion journalist for 25 years, has written an exceptionally insightful book on how the painter created her own style and has been influencing the fashion world for more than half a century after her death. More importantly, she answers the question: “Why has Frida become so iconic?”
It was Casa Azul—the house of Kahlo that was opened for the public in 2012 with its first exhibition “Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Dresses of Frida Kahlo”—that inspired Vidal to write this book. With hundreds of Frida’s personal objects, it allowed everyone to have the glimpse into the enigmatic world of the painter.
Vidal shares her profound knowledge of fashion and mentions every major big-name magazine around the world and A-list designers, who have been inspired and have taken signature elements of Frida’s image to create their photoshoots and collections. Gorgeous images from fashion magazines are placed next to private and official photographs of Kahlo and, of course, her paintings.
The author describes how Kahlo’s personal tragedies—such as a bus accident, and love stories of the painter with Diego and their multiple lovers—have shaped her aesthetic not only in her works, but also in her fashion. Born to a German father and a Mexican mother of native Oaxacan and Spanish descent, Kahlo adopted the traditional Tijuana dress that she mixed with fine European fabrics and local jewelry. In her outfits, she reflected her ideological, personal and even familial stories. Ultimately, Kahlo’s image has become one of her best masterpieces.
Vidal also explores the Fridamania around the world. Kahlo has become an embodiment of female’s sexual revolution of the 1970s through her approaches to feminism and sexual freedom. The author notably describes her influence on today’s world and today’s celebrities, from Madonna and Amy Winehouse to Patti Smith and Beyoncé.
Recommended for: This book will make an excellent gift not only for fans of Frida Kahlo, but anyone interested in Mexican culture, pop culture, art history, as well as fashion and the art of self-presentation.
Michelle Obama: A Photographic Journey by Antonia Felix
In April 2017, Sterling Publishing released this wonderful keepsake about the former First Lady of the U.S.A., Michelle Obama.
The book guides the reader through 140 official photographs and excerpts from Obama’s speeches. It consists of six chapters and an introduction, with general descriptions and comments by the author. Felix does not give any appraisals to Obama’s political influence or results of her initiatives, but provides a context for readers to appreciate her activity.
This is not a detailed biography book, but an interesting compilation of Obama’s inspiring speeches and quotes, spread out along with beautiful photographs, from Princeton’s yearbook in 1985 and wedding photographs to those taken throughout the years at The White House and travelling across the globe on the mission of the First Lady.
Not to be forgotten, there is a chapter in the book, called Fashion Icon, that showcases outfits that Obama wore throughout the years. The author mentions how Obama promoted young designers and small fashion houses, but this chapter is noticeably smaller than others. Surprisingly the image of Obama’s Jason Wu dress for Inaugural Ball in 2005—that made him a celebrity designer overnight—did not make it into the book.
Nevertheless, the book will make a great gift for Mother’s Day, as it portrays Michelle Obama not only as the First Lady, but mostly as a mom. In her own words, Obama says that: “At the end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief.” Through her speeches and initiatives, a reader can feel how much she cared about children of the nation as she refers to them most of the time.
Recommended for: This is a very updated edition that includes excerpts from the last public speech by Obama in January 2017. This would be a great gift not only for fans who already miss Obama’s bright and inspiring appearances, but anybody who is interested in a visual retrospective of a successful powerful and stylish mother, who also happened to be the First Lady of the United States.
Victoria Beckham: Style Power by David Foy
At the end of 2016, The Art of Publishing released a book by David Foy, called Victoria Beckham: Style Power. This is an examination of Beckham’s career solely as a fashion designer and it covers her every collection up until the most recent show in 2016.
The exploration of Beckham’s role in fashion starts in 2000, when she first debuted as a model to support her designer friend Maria Grachvogel at London Fashion Week. She subsequently took a role of an ambassador for various brands and helped design a denim line in collaboration with Rock & Republic, ultimately launching her own denim label, dVb Style. At New York Fashion Week in spring 2009, Beckham presented a capsule collection for selected press members in a hotel room. This was the start of her successful journey as an acclaimed fashion designer.
The book consists of an introduction and multiple chapters, divided by the year of a collection, from 2009 to 2016. Every chapter features 3 to 4 images of Beckham herself on red carpets or official events, being her own best model, as well as 4 to 7 images of her designs on the runway. The author describes the features of every look, giving them a detailed description, and includes a critique on how it reflected Beckham’s development.
The book is not very large as it consists of only 95 pages, most of which are images. Still, it is informative in regards to evolution of Beckham’s aesthetic and design. This is not a biography of Beckham, but instead a focus on her designs. There are two images of Beckham with her friend-clients, Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria, dressed in her designs. However, the book does not feature other celebrities who wear her outfits on red carpets, TV shows or in magazines.
Recommended for: This book would make a great gift for those who admire Victoria Beckham’s style and are interested in the development of her aesthetic.
Feature image credit: The Bear and the Doll, 1970. © Cinémathèque française, from Brigitte Bardot: My Life in Fashion (Flammarion, 2016).