Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.
This past Monday was the Met Gala – ostensibly a fundraiser for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but more widely known as “Fashion’s Biggest Night.” The theme in 2022 is “The Gilded Age” (not to be confused with the new HBO show by the same name), and while we didn’t see Rihanna as a bejeweled pope or Katy Perry as a hamburger, there were some notable fashions, like Blake Lively‘s reversible gown and Ashton Sanders‘s vampire steampunk look.
If you want to read some books that delve as deeply into high fashion and serving lewks, we have some recommendations for you. But whatever you read, as Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work!”
With such fans as InStyle magazine and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie, the picture book Mitford at the Fashion Zoo by Donald Johnson, the fashion illustrator and a creative director at Estée Lauder, should be on your list of fashion picture books. Part Zootopia, part The Devil Wears Prada, Mitford’s story is both a fashion satire and inspirational tale of following your dreams.
But there’d be no fashion without the textiles used to make those gorgeous gowns and thrilling threads. And Julie Kraulis’ A Pattern for Pepper follows Pepper as she journeys through notable patterns and their origins – pinstripe, houndstooth, ikat, toile, and more – in her effort to make a dress for a special occasion (not unlike the Met Gala).
If Lady Gaga’s 2019 Brandon Maxwell gown was one of your favorite Gala look in recent years, Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad’s Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli will probably intrigue you. Schiaparelli, known for turning art into fashion and for her imaginative designs, invented the color shocking pink (among other things). And you’ll learn that and more in this lyrical picture book biography.
There are few better guides to fashion than Canada’s own Jeanne Beker. The FashionTelevision correspondent, style columnist, and Canada’s Next Top Model judge wrote Passion for Fashion: Careers in Style, illustrated by Nathalie Dion, as an introduction to the fashion industry and career guide, with information and profiles of agents, designers, models, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, publicists, journalists, fashion illustrators, creative directors, fashion show producers, color specialists, personal shoppers, and more!
The couture outfits of the Met Gala are one thing, but Fashionopolis: The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear by Dana Thomas, looks at the social issues surrounding fast fashion and its impact on the environment and social justice. If you ever wondered how designer jeans ended up in your local mall, this book is a helpful tool.
In the mood for fiction instead? Look no further than Lakita Wilson’s Be Real, Macy Weaver, a funny and fashion-filled story of friendship. Macy is fresh from a friend breakup and a move when she meets Brynn, a smart girl who seems to have her whole life figured out – right down to her future as a high fashion model. That’s when one small fib turns Macy’s life into one of dazzling dresses and glamour – like a Met Gala Junior High!
As Lee Pace could tell you at the 2021 Met Gala, The Swag Is in the Socks. And that’s the name of a novel by Kelly J. Baptist, in which young Xavier learns about the power of some out-there socks, and the importance of swagging out and speaking up.
If you’re looking to marry your love of high fantasy and high fashion, Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim has you covered. A teenage girl, Maia, poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and enters a cutthroat competition to sew three magic dresses – from the sun, the moon, and the stars. If that sounds like a cosmic version of Project Runway, you’re not wrong! (And check out the sequel, Unravel the Dusk.)
One thing the Met Gala excels in is showing a little skin. This very idea propels Marya Cuevas and Marie Marquardt’s Does My Body Offend You?, a story about two teenagers who join forces to fight the school’s dress code and find friendship, despite their different backgrounds.
Okay, so Namina Forna’s bestselling and blood-soaked fantasy The Gilded Ones may not have a lot to do with fashion, but it is an incredible tale filled with warrior women, and the title just fits the theme so well.
There is no shortage of reality TV stars and social media influencers found at the Met Gala, from Kendall Jenner to Addison Rae, which makes Raziel Reid’s Followers another perfect YA pick. This over-the-top satirical romp follows a naïve teenager thrown into a back-stabbing world of reality television, designer labels, and tabloid gossip.