Best Fashion books from the Met Gala

Any fashionista worth her Manolos can tell you the first Monday in May is dedicated to the Met Gala.   The Met Gala ball that kicks off the Costume Institute annual exhibit is the hottest and most expensive fashion ticket in town.  It’s a veritable who’s who in society, publishing and fashion. There are very few occasions when couture with a capital “C” is appropriate, but when spring flowers appear in Central Park, the Met Gala red carpet comes alive with fabulous fashion.  Every year gives us a new theme, great fashion moments and stylish new fashion books to grace the shelves.  For your pleasure and mine, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books that chronicle, celebrate or were inspired by my favorite Met Gala themes.  They should become couture for your coffee table!

2014 Charles James: Beyond Fashion

Met Gala Pretty Page Turner Sarah Jessica Parker wearing Oscar de la Renta

Sarah Jessica Parker wears a Charles James inspired gown by the legendary Oscar de la Renta

Charles James was one of the first true couturiers of American society.  Highly sought by the likes of Standard Oil heir Millicent Rogers and Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich, his designs became the archetype of the rich and powerful of mid century America.  Known for his defiant attitude, he died well celebrated, but financially destitute. Never willing to sacrifice form to the finances, he never reached the marketing success of his contemporaries.  The Met Exhibit shows that although he made great fashion, his skills and troubled genius persona made him a giant beyond fashion. 

Charles James: Beyond Fashion (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Metropolitan Museum always releases the definitive tome about the exhibit.  Written by Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, each book is a true collectors item.  If you love art exhibits and you love fashion, you must make it a point to purchase each year’s catalog.

Charles James: Designer in Detail

A recent release (March 2015) focuses on the perfectionist nature of James as a designer.  His couture gowns were perfectly constructed inside and out and known for their geometric precision.  James was his own pattern maker, and the patterns were perfection.  If you like fashion as architecture, this is your book.

100 Dresses: The Costume Institute 

One of the favorite books on my shelf is this compilation of historical dresses by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The beautiful photos, spanning fashion from the late 17th Century to Dior 2006, is informative, and stunning in detail.  Any student of fashion would welcome the rich glossary of terms as well as full action shots from runway and historical advertisings.

2013 Punk: Chaos to Couture

met gala punk decor Pretty Page Turner

The floral and fauna flanked entryway

The look, created in the back alleys of London to be subversive, did eventually overthrow the fashion status quo. Once the cry of teenage anarchy, punk has become as viable style statement for every generation.  2013 was one of my favorite themes and produced some of my favorite all time fashion moments.  Punk was translated literally, and in my opinion, elegantly by the likes of Miley Cyrus, and perfectly homaged with the collaboration of Sarah Jessica Parker and Philip Treacy with that amazing mohawk headpiece.

Punk: Chaos to Couture (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The annual exhibit catalogue is a visual delight. One of my fave is a chandelier made from thousands of razor blades suspended over a beautiful bed of roses. I always love an aesthetic contradition.  The plastic bag dresses by Gareth Pugh shows how punk evolved as the first DIY project of fashionable teens.  Every exhibit shows the essence of punk-full of details, full of rebellion, but somehow what started as a revolution against  elegance and luxury evolved into it’s own brand of luxurious tension.

Vivienne Westwood 

Nothing regarding punk would be accurate without the inclusion of  the Queen of Punk.  Written with Ian Kelly by the grand dame herself, La Viv shares the inspiration, the stories and how the little movement that rocked London’s counter culture became her international brand.

Tartan: Romancing the Plaid

Tartan, began as the sign of Scottish clans, but most agree it has become THE print of the punk movement.  From men’s kilts, to royal residences, tartan was co-opted by the designer triumvirate of punk-Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier.  Once humble, then haute, tartan is to punk what Lilly Pulitzer prints are to country club mavens.

2012 Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

Pretty Page Turner Met gala decor

The 2012 Met Gala settings-my favorite eye candy

The overwhelming success of the previous year exhibit dedicated to Alexander McQueen inspired  Mr. Koda to focus on a show about  a female designer.   The idea of comparing and contrasting artistically inclined bourgeois Italian female designers, albeit from different generations, was inspired by a series of articles from Vanity Fair  in the 1930s called “Impossible Interviews” between current day celebrities.  The decor of 2012 is my fave. The mix of prints set in the Euro cafe bistro setting, was in my mind, the most feminine, the most artistic and the most modern.  It is the MOSTest!

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations (Metropolitan Museum, New York: Exhibition Catalogues)

The exhibit catalog, as always written by Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, shows the parallel inspirations and similiarites of women separated in time.  Their artful whimsy, complementary color pallettes and bold use of shapes leaves the fashion world a legacy of exceptional prints and exceptional feminine silhouettes.

Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography

The definitive life story of Elsa was written by acclaimed biographer Meryle Secrest giving form to her extravagant personality and shows how “Schiap” was more popular in her day than the mighty Coco Chanel.  An astute business woman, Elsa built her company to millions of francs annually,  brilliantly combining the worlds of fashion and art forever.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s Private Album

“Schiap” was a fashion legend and her legacy included the supermodel and actress Marisa Berenson.  This book was actually written by Marisa and offers an intimate look into her life and home in the way only family knew her. Eccentric and witty, Elsa was a friend and collaborater with some of the greatest artists of her time, but she was also just someone’s Nana.  This book shows the dynamics of that cool contradiction.


This oversized tome  was authored by the Prada company as an archival history of the entire world of Prada.  Clothes, bags, advertising and photography-everything that influences, surrounds and motivates Miucca Prada is included.  If Prada is your world, this is your map.