This year, for our annual Mother’s Day gift guide, we are featuring 5 books that can be of interest to mothers of different ages, interests and lifestyles. However, what unites them all is that all of these selections are about fashion and women, who have left their mark on the world.
“Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style” by Bethan Holt
Our readers may recall that last year we reviewed The Duchess of Cambridge. A decade of modern royal style by Bethan Holt. This year, right before Queen Elizabeth II’s 96th birthday and ahead of Mother’s Day, Holt has published another book, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth’s style and celebrating her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. It is fresh hot off the press as it just came out on April 19.
The book is a fascinating dedication to Queen Elizabeth, whose record-breaking reign is described through the lens of her style and fashion. According to Holt, in the past seven decades, it’s estimated that Elizabeth II has worn more than 10,000 outfits, honing a clothing strategy that can see her semaphore respect, diplomatic flattery, elegance, gratitude, regal glamour and much more.
The book covers 70 years, from the early days of Princess Elizabeth and a young 25-year old Queen, up until today, when Elizabeth II is 96 years old and a great-grandmother of 12 great-grandchildren. The book looks at gorgeous regal gowns on official tours and state banquets, as well as the casual off-duty looks. Holt also shares stories behind famous hats and precious jewels.
The book provides a glimpse into the life of a royal as it discusses a royal calendar and must-attend activities included in the social calendar. There is also a chapter on milestone moments in Queen’s life: from the birth of Prince Charles to royal weddings, family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and jubilees, all followed by stories about what her Majesty was wearing. Even the 2018 London Fashion Week is included as a milestone of the Queen’s life, as on that occasion she “cemented her status among the world’s fashionistas”. She is also observed as an influence on fashion in general with brands, like Gucci and Max Mara.
The book celebrates a sartorial stability that the Queen provides. “No matter what is happening in the world, we can be sure that Elizabeth II will be there in her vibrant coat, her heirloom brooches and carrying her sturdy Launer handbag,” writes Holt. “Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style” will be a great addition to the libraries of those, who are interested in royal fashion, the Queen and the messages behind the gowns.
Esther Zuckerman “Beyond the best dressed”
In February 2022, Esther Zuckerman published “Beyond the best dressed. A Cultural History of the most glamorous, radical, and scandalous Oscar fashion” with Running Press. Zuckerman looks at elegant and absurd, showstopping and political, bold and iconic red carpet looks, from Mary Pickford, who established the tradition of dressing up for the occasion, to director Chloe Zhao’s sneakers in 2021.
Zuckerman is an entertainment journalist, so she knows the topic very well. Her book is full of amusing stories and deep cultural research on the topics and ideas behind the most famous and iconic Oscar gowns. While somebody finds it superficial to ask Oscar-nominated actresses “What are you wearing?”, the author proves that there is always more behind a gown than just a designer’s name, and looks deep behind the seams. As she says, “There’s so much more that just ‘Best Dressed’.” The author analyzes the cultural impact of wardrobe decisions and delves deep into the effect of fashion during the biggest night in Hollywood.
The book is also a great narration on the relations of fashion and film. Compact in size, it can be easily thrown in a purse and read during your commute, in a neighbourhood coffee shop or in a park. The book looks fun and cute, it doesn’t have photographs inside but is whimsically illustrated by Montana Forbes. Deeply researched and easy to read, this book is a must for anyone interested in popular culture, fashion stories, movie stars, Hollywood and the film industry.
Elizabeth L. Block “Dressing Up. The Women Who Influenced French Fashion”
Author Elizabeth L. Block is an art historian and a Senior Editor in the Publications and Editorial Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her latest book is a rich and deep historical research and investigation on how wealthy American clients helped shape French couture of the late 19th century.
French fashion of that time is known for its allure. As opposed to the usual narrative of the designer as solo creative genius, Block shows how American women—as high-volume customers and as pre-Internet influencers—were active participants in the era’s transnational fashion system. Block describes the arrival of the U. S. nouveaux riches on the French fashion scene, joining European royalty, French socialites and renowned actresses on the client rosters of the best fashion houses of those times—Charles Frederick Worth, Doucet and Félix, among others. Lavishly illustrated, with vibrant images and historic photographs of dresses, portraits and fashion plates, “Dressing Up” reveals the power of U.S. women in French couture. Many historical anecdotes, non-trivial and unexpected stories spice up this scientific volume.
This book will be a great addition to the libraries of art and dress historians, history buffs with interest in anything American and Francophone, and those who are enchanted with the 19th century or the “Gilded Age”.
Robert Matzen, foreworded by Luca Dotti, “Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II” and “Warrior: Audrey Hepburn”
Legendary Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn keeps fascinating fans around the world almost 30 years after her death. Although Hepburn is an acclaimed and celebrated style icon, these two books look at completely different and non-glamorous angles of the actress’ personality. While most biographical books describe a full life of a person, these two examine the specifically non-Hollywood sides of the actress and her life.
“Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II” looks at the part of Audrey Hepburn’s life, starting from the genealogical lineage of her mother’s family, who was Dutch nobility, until the end of the war. The book describes her experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. This included participation in the Dutch Resistance and working as a doctor’s assistant. With a lot of family drama, like the brutal execution of her uncle, she also had to live with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation.
The author researched classified Dutch archives, diaries and interviews with people who survived the war alongside Hepburn, who was a famous ballerina in those years. The book also has a section of never published before photographs from the actress’ personal collection.
The experience of the World War II had shaped the actress. This is why the second book, “Warrior: Audrey Hepburn” is a logical continuation of Audrey Hepburn’s post-Hollywood life. Matzen believes that the war gave her the determination to become a humanitarian for UNICEF and the fearlessness to charge into war-torn countries in the Third World on behalf of children and their mothers in desperate need. The stories in the book resulted from hours of conversations with the people, who worked alongside Hepburn at UNICEF, her closest surviving friends and family, photographers and journalists who covered her missions.
We put these two books into one category, as the “Dutch Girl” provides a solid foundation to Hepburn in the “Warrior”. Both books have a foreword by Luca Dotti, Hepburn’s son, who notes that with these books he, himself, has learnt so much about his own mother. These books offer a new angle into the life of a legendary actress who is beloved not only for her beauty, style and movies, but for her humanitarian work and kind heart. Hepburn set the standard for other celebrity humanitarians, who followed in her footsteps.
“Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II” and “Warrior: Audrey Hepburn” will be a great addition to the libraries of all the fans of the actress, as well as history buffs, World War II researchers, and anyone interested in those periods.
The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style.
© DZY/Getty Images, © Hulton Archive/Getty Images, © Anwar Hussein/Getty Images, © Hulton Archive/Getty Images, © Bettmann/Getty Images, © Anwar Hussein/Getty Images, © Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images.
Courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son.
Beyond Best Dressed
Illustrations: Montana Forbes.
Courtesy of Hachette Book Group Canada.
Dressing Up. The Women Who Influenced French Fashion.
Jeanne Paquin (French, 1869–1936). Evening suit, late 1890s. Silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (C.I.48.70.1a, b).
House of Worth (French, 1858–1956). Ball gown, 1898–1903. Silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (49.3.8a, b).
Courtesy of Elizabeth L. Block.
Audrey Hepburn (both books)
Sarah Miniaci PR.