BY: MAEGAN J
We have curated a list of some of our favorite fashion books that celebrate black fashion style, designers, models, entertainers, and history. Any of these books would make a welcome addition to a fashion lover's library.
Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion by: Tanisha C. Ford
From sneakers to leather jackets, a bold, witty, and deeply personal dive into Black America's closet In this highly engaging book, fashionista and pop culture expert Tanisha C. Ford investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop's baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today. Dressed in Dreams is a story of desire, access, conformity, and black innovation that explains things like the importance of knockoff culture; the role of “ghetto fabulous” full-length furs and colorful leather in the 1990s; how black girls make magic out of a dollar store t-shirt, rhinestones, and airbrushed paint; and black parents' emphasis on dressing nice. Ford talks about the pain of seeing black style appropriated by the mainstream fashion industry and fashion’s power, especially in middle America. In this richly evocative narrative, she shares her lifelong fashion revolution―from figuring out her own personal style to discovering what makes Midwestern fashion a real thing too.
Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion by: Marcellas Reynolds
The first-ever book celebrating black models, filled with revealing essays, interviews, and stunning photographs.
Written by celebrity stylist and journalist Marcellas Reynolds, Supreme Models features more than 70 women from the last 60 years. The book is filled with gorgeous photographs of the women, and details their most memorable covers, campaigns, runway shows, and editorials. Black models have been influencing fashion and pop culture for decades, reshaping the standards and boundaries of beauty. Supreme Models is a celebration of their monumental impact.
Vintage Black Glamour by: Nichelle Gainer
Using rarely accessed photographic archives and private collections, inspired by her family history, Nichelle Gainer has unearthed a revealing treasure trove of historic photographs of famous actors, dancers, writers and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business, but who rarely appeared in the same publications as their white counterparts. Alongside the familiar images and stories of renowned performers such as Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin are those of less well-remembered figures such as Bricktop, Pearl Primus, Diana Sands and many, many more. Vintage Black Glamour is a unique, sumptuous and revealing celebration of the lives and indomitable spirit of Black women of a previous era. Although talented, successful and ground-breaking, many of the women in these pages were ignored by mainstream media, but their life's work and attitude stand as inspiration for us still, today. With its stunning photographs and insightful biographies, this book is a hugely important addition to Black history archives.
Queens: Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair by: Michael Cunningham
Crowns photographer Michael Cunningham and author and journalist George Alexander have captured the marvelous trinity of black women, hair, and beauty salons in the glorious Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous Hair. From the afro to the ponytail to dreadlocks to braids to relaxed hair to fantasy hair; from “good hair” to bad hair days, in this stunningly designed book black women from the United States, Africa, and London explore the fascination with hair and beauty that has long been a cherished part of African American culture.
Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style by: Shantrelle P. Lewis
Suits that pop with loud colors and dazzling patterns, complete with a nearly ubiquitous bowtie, define the style of the new “dandy.” Described as “high-styled rebels” by author Shantrelle P. Lewis, black men with a penchant for color and refined fashion, both new and vintage, have gained popular attention in recent years, influencing mainstream fashion. Dandy Lion presents and celebrates individual dandy personalities, designers and tailors, movements and events that define contemporary dandyism. Throughout the book, self-expression is communicated through personal style, clothing, shoes, hats, and swagger. Lewis’s carefully curated selection of contemporary photographs surveys the movement across the globe in spectacular form, with all of the vibrant patterns, electrifying colors, and fanciful poses of this brilliant style subculture.
The Way We Wore: Black Style Then by: Michael McCollom
In The Way We Wore: Black Style Then, Michael McCollom chronicles African-American fashion from the 1940s through today. From brides glowing in white dresses to bachelors in bell-bottoms, these photographs encompass the tremendous variety of fashions begun by the African-American community and guided international fashion culture. Some outfits are dynamic and outrageous―elaborate hairstyles and chunky shoes, enormous earrings and funky glasses―yet their wearers' vitality and pride leap from the page. Other styles are striking in their elegance and composure. World War II servicemen in their uniforms, women in haute couture gowns, children dressed for Sunday morning church service; gorgeous shots like these transcend fads, engendering the book with a sense of heritage and history befitting the legacy of African-American style and culture. The Way We Wore is both a marvelous journey from Harlem Renaissance to Hip-Hop, the celebration of the innovative and captivating history of African-American fashion over the past century.
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day
With his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs. But before he reinvented haute couture, he was a hungry boy with holes in his shoes, a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, and a young man in a prison cell who found nourishment in books. In this remarkable memoir, he tells his full story for the first time.
Decade after decade, Dapper Dan discovered creative ways to flourish in a country designed to privilege certain Americans over others. He witnessed, profited from, and despised the rise of two drug epidemics. He invented stunningly bold credit card frauds that took him around the world. He paid neighborhood kids to jog with him in an effort to keep them out of the drug game. And when he turned his attention to fashion, he did so with the energy and curiosity with which he approaches all things: learning how to treat fur himself when no one would sell finished fur coats to a Black man; finding the best dressed hustler in the neighborhood and converting him into a customer; staying open twenty-four hours a day for nine years straight to meet demand; and, finally, emerging as a world-famous designer whose looks went on to define an era, dressing cultural icons including Eric B. and Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Mike Tyson, Alpo Martinez, LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, Diddy, Naomi Campbell, and Jay-Z.
Dark Girls by: Bill Duke
Dark Girls—an inspiring and breathtaking photo book that celebrates dark-skinned women. Black has never been more beautiful, witnessed by this magnificent collection featuring accomplished dark skinned-women from all walks of life. In Dark Girls, celebrities such as Lupita Nyong'o, Vanessa Williams, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Judge Mablean Ephriam, Brandi and Karli Harvey, and over seventy-five other outstanding women share intimate insights into what their dark skin means to them. Filled with gorgeous photographs, this thoughtful, sophisticated, alluring, and uplifting collection captures the elegance of dark skin—joyfully showcasing that we truly are beautiful for who we are.
Africa Rising: Fashion, Design and Lifestyle from Africa by: Clara Le Fort
African fashion and design is colorful, unconventional, fresh, elegant, and self-confident. Africa Rising showcases the work of young creatives from the continent’s vibrant metropolises. Africa’s young, self-confident creative scene is attracting worldwide attention and its work is showing the continent in a new light. Its dynamic design and fashion, as well as the products of its other creative industries, constantly surprise with their unique combination of innovation and tradition. African design, like that of other regions, often reflects or acts as a catalyst for social and economic developments. Africa Rising is a compelling exploration of this scene’s talented pioneers and their outstanding projects.
Fashion Tribes: Global Street Style by: Daniele Tamagni
In Fashion Tribes, award-winning photographer Daniele Tamagni has tracked down and recorded some of the most surprising and colorful international fashion subcultures. Through documentary shots and staged portraiture, he’s captured heavy metal rockers in Botswana, hipsters in Johannesburg, dandies in the Congo, female wrestlers in Bolivia, “bling bling” youth in Cuba, punks in Burma, and models in Senegal. Often marginalized on the fringes of their own societies and looking to stand out, these people fight back and express their creativity and joy through personal style. Alongside the seven subcultures featured are essays by leading experts in fashion, art, anthropology, and sociology that explore all facets of style. Fashion Tribes offers a broad view of world dress and shows the power that clothing can hold.
When you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. See our Affiliate Disclosure here.
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest in fashion news, events, and exhibitions.