How to Design a Life with Great Style

Female designer Rachel Roy autobiography fashion book shares keys to design life with great style

Design Your Life

I recently purchased the new release by one of my favorite designers Rachel Roy. Her clothes are modern, yet classic, youthful while not immature, and celebratory to any woman’s figure. The Design Your Life book jacket describes Rachel as “a working mother who believes that through style, we can design the lives we want to live”.  I couldn’t agree with that statement more and it’s a common blueprint for most designing women that have built legacies and lifestyle brands by addressing the needs and wants of women like themselves. I was inspired to compile a list of memoirs by favorite female designers, recounting the lives and lessons that were the seeds for their Designer Dynasties. There are many great designers missing, as I limited the list to books written by the designer herself. Just as any artist has to trust her own perspective, I only wanted stories told by the individual woman, absent of the filter of another person’s opinion or agenda.


Female Designer Diane von Furstenberg biography keys for lifestyle with great style

Diane: A Signature Life

Diane von Furstenberg

By now, you know my love of the DVF brand and that infamous wrap dress. Her jetset life served as the blueprint for the liberating, yet sexy clothes she creates for women. Her fairytale life (which includes a Prince Charming) has produced a great library of books.   My favorite book is still her original autobiography Diane: A Signature Life, as she tells the story of the impetus of that simple wrap dress, just as she was embarking on her even larger second act.



Female designer Elsa Schiaparelli biography keys to design life with great style

Shocking Life


Elsa Schiaparelli

Born into gentile society, Elsa thumbed her nose at the aristocratic system whenever possible. Considering society confining, she married and moved to New York, finding a more liberating life as a working woman. Her rebellion continued with the invention of the “divided skirt”  (you may know them as shorts), giving women freedom while playing tennis. An art lover, Schiaparelli created fun, avant garde fashion that made society women walking works of art.  Of course, she didn’t go for classical Romanesque art, but produced clothes highlighting the subversive Surrealism movement. In her autobiography Shocking Life, she shares the story of how she became all the rage by often enraging the bourgeoisie.


Female designer Female designer Vivienne Westwood biography keys to design life with great style biography keys to design life with great style

Vivienne Westwood

  Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, one of the most original voices in fashion, created a fashion genre and built an empire making punk palatable to the masses. Mixing sacred symbols of British Imperialism, such as Scottish tartan and kilts, with chains and studs, she crowned herself the queen of English fashion and gave credibility to youth counterculture without ever losing her own her rebel heart. This rockin’ Grandma finally speaks in an honest and unbiased memoir simply titled Vivienne Westwood recalling the people, events and inspirations for her legendary global grand.



Female designer Donna Karan autobiography keys to design life with great style

My Journey


Donna Karan:  My Journey 

Donna Karan is the visionary that gave women a proper work  wardrobe. Her rise was appropriately timed to the ascension of women into workplace executive suites and her “7 Easy Pieces” made women feel strong, look beautiful and able to perform capably. She became the Queen of Seventh Avenue as she expanded her namesake company into a lifestyle brand, diversifying into diffusion lines, jeans, menswear, domestics and fragrances. Her strong, fluid designs, worn by such unconventional luminaries as Barbara Streisand and Hillary Rodham Clinton, allowed women to look sexy, be smart and feel comfortably confident. My Journey, recently released to coincide with her retirement, Karan tells her entire story from childhood, industry insider gossip and her search for inner peace and self-acceptance.


Female designer Claire McCardell autobiography keys to design life with great style

What Shall I Wear?

Claire McCardell

When World War II cut America off from the fashion of Paris, Claire McCardell emerged as the inventor of what we now know as American sportswear. With her use of denim, cotton and simple day dresses, she invented the lookbook for how free moving American women lived cleaning houses, swimming with kids and planting their gardens. She brought us ballet slippers as casual footwear as well as clothes that didn’t require crinolines and corsets. When you think of the post WWII housewife, she’s dressed in Claire McCardell’s casual, but revolutionary style. Her book, What Shall I Wear, originally published in 1956 by Simon & Schuster, will make you laugh at the outdated social mores  for proper female behavior, but it still has relevant advice, such as not swallowing trends whole.  It’s a time capsule worth reviewing, as even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I am anxiously awaiting the eventual memoirs of  Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Phoebe Philo and Stella McCartney. I pray to the publishing gods that these multi-faceted women eventually add author to their multi-hyphenates.

Which female designers’ life and style inspiration story are you anxious to hear?