Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.
The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites by Nancy MacDonell Smith (Penguin, 2003)
Color Stories: Behind the Scenes of America’s Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry by Mary Lisa Gavenas (Simon & Schuster, 2002)
Explore the origins, meaning, and remarkable staying power of the ten staples of feminine fashion, including the little black dress, blue jeans, high heels, and more. Tracing the evolution of each item from inception to icon status, she reveals the history and social significance of each, from the black dress’s associations with danger and death to the status implications of the classic white shirt. Incorporating sources from history, literature, magazines, and cinema, as well as her own witty anecdotes, Smith has created an engaging, informative guide to modern style.
For everyone who’s ever slicked on lipstick, flirted with eye shadow, or browsed the bewildering array in any store’s beauty de-partment, “Color Stories” offers an insider’s view of all the brainstorming, bickering, and bitchery that go into those little sticks of color and pans of powder. Former beauty editor Mary Lisa Gavenas takes us behind the scenes during the nine months that culminate in the launch of a season’s all-important “color stories.” We discover how one shade becomes the “must have,” why makeup artists never use the same products as the rest of us, and exactly how easy — and impossible — it is to start a million-dollar makeup line.
Why I liked them
I realize that a lot of folks think of beauty and fashion as “vapid” interests, but these industries combined account for over 407 billion dollars of business done in the U.S. alone. I also think that some people dismiss these things because they’re seen as traditionally feminine, and that ain’t OK. So I’m really glad for books like these that discuss seriously some of the history/culture behind the beauty and fashion industries! Plus, this “behind-the-scenes” stuff is just downright fascinating.
Who I’d recommend them to
I’d say that if you’re interested in cute clothes or fun makeup at all, these books are for you. You don’t have to be an Instagram “model” or subscribe to Vogue as a prerequisite or anything — if you just swipe on a little lipstick now and then or appreciate a good comfy cashmere sweater, you can learn something super interesting from either of these books.
The Classic Ten
- Articles in Vogue by Nancy Macdonnell
- Articles in W by Nancy Macdonell
- “A White Shirt Never Goes Out of Style” in the Seattle Times