The Chiffon Trenches, by André Leon Talley, HarperCollins, RRP£20, 304 pages

No book this year rivals the insight into 20th-century fashion’s major figures — Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Anna Wintour — as this memoir by American Vogue’s former creative director. Chronicling a black man’s rise from the segregated south to the front rows of Paris, it captures a bygone fashion world of powerful gatekeepers and those jostling for their favour.

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style, by Elizabeth Holmes, Celadon Books, RRP$35, 336 pages

A smooth, entertaining read fizzing with insight, this book by the former Wall Street Journal style reporter examines how four royal women — Queen Elizabeth, Diana, Princess of Wales, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — have wielded clothing and image to charm their followers, reinforce their status and further their causes.

Clothes . . . and other things that matter, by Alexandra Shulman, Octopus Publishing Group, RRP£16.99, 352 pages

In three dozen tidy, perceptive essays, the former editor-in-chief of British Vogue explores the semiotics of clothes and her relationship with bikinis and boiler suits, white shirts and Chanel jackets (“the epitome of status dress for the successful magazine executive,” she writes). A handy read for those wanting a deeper understanding of modern dress.

Best Books of the Year 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Critics choice
Saturday: Crime by Barry Forshaw

The Bloomsbury Look, by Wendy Hitchmough, Yale University Press, RRP£30, 184 pages

The Bloomsbury Group — and in particular, the style of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell — has been a constant source of inspiration for artists, fashion designers and interior decorators. This well-illustrated volume analyses the visual artefacts — garments and hair styles, art and furniture — the group used to signal membership.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute, by Hamish Bowles and Chloe Malle, Abrams, RRP£45, 352 pages

Beginning with Jacqueline Kennedy’s wardrobe retrospective in 2001, this coffee-table-worthy volume has been updated with exhibitions from 2015 (China: Through the Looking Glass) through to 2019 (Camp: Notes on Fashion). Details of each exhibit are interspersed with Vogue shoots, coverage of the opening galas and even copies of the invitations.

Lauren Indvik is the FT’s fashion editor

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