There’s no shame in buying a beautiful coffee-table book about shoes or dresses because the cover art will look great on your mid-century credenza, but many people can quickly forget that there’s real substance in those glossy pages. To own a book about a designer, a heritage house, a trend, or iconic editorial photography is to collect information about history and culture and to celebrate something much bigger than a pretty bauble. This year, there was no shortage of such immersive tomes; books that highlight the careers of icons like Donatella Versace and Coco Chanel, honor the legacy of labels like Loewe and Coach, and give greater insight into the minds of the new guard, including Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Vetements’s Demna Gvasalia. 2016 was also the year in which Vogue proudly toasted two longtime editors: Creative Director at Large Grace Coddington and Executive Fashion Editor Phyllis Posnick.
The best fashion books are the ones that aim to teach and inspire and thankfully this year, there was plenty to dive into. Above, these are the most brilliant, thought provoking, and visually alluring of them all—the kind that are just too amazing to sit quietly on a piece of furniture.
Loewe: Past, Present, FutureSelf-published by Loewe, the book visually explores the Spanish house’s 170-year history and its recent Jonathan Anderson–abetted rise to the top of the fashion heap.
Hair by Sam McKnightThe hairstylist who has been in the business for 40 years shares his greatest hits—from Princess Diana’s famous short coif to fashion editorials with Kate Moss—in this beautiful Rizzoli book of photographs.
Versace by Donatella VersaceLa Signora, as Donatella Versace is known around the company’s Via Gesù headquarters, takes readers back through her era at the helm of the Italian fashion house.
_Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography_Taschen has published a book of more than 400 images captured by the famed photographer Peter Lindbergh. There is commentary throughout from friends and colleagues like Cindy Crawford, Anna Wintour, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
_Gucci: Blind for Love_Recently published by Assouline, this 224-page tome is being released in a limited edition of 2,000 and features backstage photographs by Nick Waplington of the Gucci Cruise 2017 show at Westminster Abbey.
_Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology_The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s curator in charge Andrew Bolton provides a closer look at his smash hit spring 2016 show “Manus x Machina,” which examined the relationship between handcrafted and machine-made fashion.
Vetements 2: SummercampFollowing the January release of a debut Vetements book, designer Demna Gvasalia presented this second collection of photographs featuring his Spring 2017 collection taken inside a chateau in France.
_Coach: A Story of New York Cool_This year the classic American brand celebrates its 75th anniversary and, with Rizzoli, has released this collection of archival sketches, photography, and history written by designer Stuart Vevers with a foreword by Debbie Harry.
Naomi CampbellA limited-edition compilation of the supermodel turned TV star’s most memorable and iconic magazine covers, ad campaigns, and editorials. Plus it comes in a shiny box made to look like her bust.
Chanel: The Enigma by Isabelle FiemeyerFiemeyer’s 2016 biography of Coco Chanel divulges previously unpublished information and images, as she spoke to the designer’s close relatives and friends, as well as to those who worked intimately with her inside the French fashion house.
_Vogue Colors A to Z: A Fashion Coloring Book_Because really, who doesn’t want to be a kid again and spend some down time coloring archival magazine covers from 1912 to 1932?
Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words by Pamela GolbinGolbin, the chief curator of 20th-century fashion and textiles at Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs, compiled quotes and personal essays from legendary designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Madeleine Vionnet, and many more.
Stoppers: Photographs From My Life at Vogue by Phyllis PosnickA celebration of the incredible career of Vogue’s Phyllis Posnick, this impressive tome features some of the most memorable and striking images she created for the magazine with photographers like Irving Penn, Tim Walker, and Helmut Newton.
Runway: The Spectacle of Fashion by Alix BrowneEditor Alix Browne’s study of how the most progressive fashion designers have pioneered the idea of using a show or presentation as a means of creative expression.
_Grace: The American Vogue Years_Vogue’s Creative Director at Large published her fourth book this year, which visually chronicles her bold and brilliant work at the magazine over the past 15 years.