Women in Fashion: 3 Brief Book Reviews

My go-to books are always fashion or history-related; with most often it being a mix of both.  To go further, my favourite kinds of reads are biographies or autobiographies- especially about women. I just recently devoured three such books that fit all of the above, and am here to let you in on these:

  1. Vivienne Westwood, by Vivienne Westwood
  2. Betsey, a Memoir: by Betsey Johnson and Mark Vitulano
  3. #GirlBoss, by Sophia Amurosa

Let’s begin with the extraordinary Vivienne Westwood: Vivienne Westwood, by Vivienne Westwood

Page de couverture de Vivienne Westwood

Let’s just say that I’m a little bias when it comes to Vivienne, as from the get-go I consider her to be an innovator and rebel of all the rules in fashion; which consequently makes her a queen designer in my opinion.  Her resume breaks all frontiers of mainstream…and yet, she uses mainstream as her outlet of choice to design the culture of the moment.  Her work is raw, in your face, often gruesome and painstakingly shameless.  It’s thought-provoking to say the least.  Granted, when you’re getting dressed for work in the morning, there’s really not much time for thinking of the cultural or revolutionary impact your clothes or style should be making!  But, in fashion we need designers like this, who push the boundaries- so that fashion keeps on moving forward.

We see all this in her book, with the added bonus of the unravelling of her whole life; husband, kids, new love, parents, work as a woman in the 60’s, politics, rock bands…there’s so much information in this book regarding her life and how fashion was an intricate part of it all.  Her work was a game-changer and let everyone in…even the outcast.  Her Punk creations pushed all of our buttons and her creations helped fashion morph into what it is today.

Something else I love reading about is how some designers work within a crazy schedule, buried in textiles in a room that is filled to the gills with their work.  And this was an ongoing scenario in Westwood’s life- chaotic and creative.  This is a close-up look at Vivienne, her quirkiness, genuine self and brilliance as a designer.  You may know her as someone who’s totally out-there, sometimes disregarding any sense of appropriateness in her creations; Vivienne knows all this and accepts it- and this is why she purposely does it.  She pushes every boundary while communicating strong cultural, in the NOW,messages- whether we readily accept this or not.  Unapologetically amazing to read!

2) And then comes Betsey!  Betsey, a Memoir: by Betsey Johnson and Mark Vitulano

Page de couverture de Betsey

How can you not adore this woman?!  From the very first pages you get the picture of who she was as a little girl, right upto her fabulous self of today.  A very in-depth look, this read tells us much about this incredible designer who brought us so many whimsical looks, had me adoring her.  Plus, since this was on Audible, I got to listen to her own voice telling the story of her life!

Wow… So many things happened in this one’s life, but it seems like she never had any regrets.  At every set-back, disappointment or hardship, Betsey picked herself right up.  A true trooper this one!  And her love life and impulsive decisions regarding love, are all in this book (including her menu of husbands!).  Betsey regrets nothing.  She is definitely a self-made woman who trudged her way to the top, all on her own- while being a single-mom in a time where this was anything but acceptable.   If there is one thing I would say that was a bit of a downside for me, it’s that the story is almost told as a fairytale kind of way.  Maybe it’s because it’s the author herself recounting her life…who knows?  I just felt that at times it wasn’t giving me the complete picture.  That being said, this did not throw me off enough for me to stop reading!  I did get to learn about her incessant, all-consuming journey in fashion, and ultimately, this was the primary reason I wanted to read her book.

3)And then there’s #Girl Boss…Sophia Amuroso.

#GIRLBOSS cover art

This one, I was supposed to read ages ago but never got around to getting it. Thanks to Audible, one click download and I can finally squeeze in any read- any time. #Girl Boss was incredibly quick and delightful.  I would recommend this book mostly to young adults trying to break into the fashion industry.  It’s a real mood booster, as it’s also inspirational to keep you motivated to never give up.  It shows you how Sophia navigated to climb up and reach the highest of business goals she set her mind on.  In no conventional way either.  From thief to uber girl boss, Sophia made it in the world of fashion while capitulating every hurdle possible. 

Trying incessantly to find her mission in life- more plainly how to make money and become someone, without much taste for education or the boundaries of typical work, Sophia makes a ground breaking discovery that Ebay may have the answers to what her future holds.  Yes, she starts off with thrifting vintage and selling it.  She was one of the very first to do this online- and her business became a multi-billion dollar empire.  Reading this was like having a private coach motivating you all the way…so it was a fun read, but I don’t particulary think I was the target group intended for this book.  Gotta pass this one on to some of my students!

So that’s my last 3 reads…and I think next time I’ll be posting my book reviews one at a time.  It will be more digestible that way, plus- It will force me to write as soon as I’m done reading!

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these.  As well, what recommendations do you have for me (fashion, or history of fashion, history, related)?

What I’m currently reading:  Dapper Dan:  Made in Harlem  AND Corsets and Codpieces

Have a great week everyone!

8 thoughts on “Women in Fashion: 3 Brief Book Reviews

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  1. I’ll be pinning this post to my Recommended Books folder! Interestingly, I just reviewed a number of audiobooks in my last post – Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Paul Simon. What strikes me about the fashion designers you mentioned and these men is not just their talent, but how persistent they all were. They never gave up, kept searching for opportunities, basically relentless.


  2. Awesome reviews, Lucy (and great to see you!). I am a major fan of Westwood and Johnson, and will look for those, particularly the Westwood one. I treasure my pieces of Westwood: plastic shoes (candy-scented!), a plaid puzzle of a skirt and a gorgeous Red Label grey blazer. I watched the Netflix show “Girlboss” and while I found it interesting, like you, I didn’t feel like I was the audience – it definitely skewed younger.

    I’ve been reading horror lately, so not really your thing, ha ha! Reading your reviews makes me want to go for a browse in the local used bookstore – I think I’ll do that this weekend!

    Many hugs to you, my friend! I hope you’re weathering the winter!

    1. Hey Sheila- I’ve missed being around here; but I just can’t seem to juggle it all these days- so much work. I agree with you Sheila about the movie! I have to tell you that it was totally different from the book. Oh, and I cannot do horror- so scary for me. Missed you! xx

      1. I adore Vivienne Westwood for all the reasons you say. I remember going to the cinema on the opening night of the SATC film, and the audience whooped and clapped when we learnt Carrie’s dress was by VW ! I will definitely read this book.

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