Male Pattern Boldness is proud to be the world's most popular men's sewing blog!



Jul 19, 2014

Coffee Table Fashion Books (in the age of Pinterest) -- YEA or NAY?



I used to own this exact same coffee table.  I ended up selling it when I got tired of telling people not to put their drinks down on it without a coaster -- a real drag.

Even though I no longer own a coffee table, I still have a thing for coffee table fashion books.  They're sumptuous, brimming with full-page photos of gorgeous clothes, and a great escape from the worries of the world.  They're often expensive, but now, thanks to Amazon and the offshoring of nearly all color printing to China, not always.





Yesterday I was delighted to finally get my greedy mitts on a copy of a new coffee table fashion book, I am Dandy.

I'd reserved it at the library months ago when it was still on-order and I am the first borrower, which always feels nice.  It's about contemporary dandy culture and consists of profiles of some of the most elegant/best-known "elegant gentlemen."  The photography is marvelous and the interviews, surprisingly interesting.  I thought about buying a copy but I have SO many fashion-related books already.  These days, Pinterest is my go-to site for fashion inspiration.  I think this is true for a lot of people today.































I get to keep I am Dandy for two weeks.  If I can't stand the thought of letting it go at that time, I can buy a used copy.

I'm fortunate that the New York Public Library has a lot of coffee table fashion books on hand -- if not in circulation, at least to read on site.  In most cases, once I've looked a coffee table book over, I'm done with it; usually many of the images can be found online.  Still, a high-quality printed photograph has a richness that onscreen images do not.  Also, fashion books' images have been curated.  The accompanying text (usually accurate) provides context that's missing from sites like Pinterest.

I find myself resisting the temptation to buy coffee table books.  I don't have the shelf space and there are other things I'd rather spend my money on.  But they are seductive, especially if they accompany a fashion exhibit I've seen and enjoyed.

In closing, readers, what's your take on coffee table fashion books?

Do you collect them?

Do you use them as reference when you take on a sewing project and/or enjoy the escape they provide?

Is flipping through other people's coffee table fashion books enough for you?

Coffee table fashion books -- YEA or NAY?



35 comments:

  1. Ok Peter. Everytime you mention a book i have to buy it :-). Can't wait for I am Dandy now !

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also have too many books (and a coffee table but mine is totally trashed at this point). I have to go with nay on the coffee table books. Mind you, I LOVE that Dandy book. I totally want it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do read them at the bookstore, I make notes and take photos, but I just don't have the real estate and one reading is often enough. . I own and love the Vionnet book by Betty Kirke, but if someone really loved me, they would buy me the original version of "Magic-1400s-1950s" bu Mike-Caveney and Jim Steinmeyer. The version that IS the size of a coffee table. I did get the newer, smaller one, but it wasn't the same experience and I sold it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes!! That's the book on Vionnet that I must own ......isn't it fabulous!!

      Delete
    2. I also borrowed the Vionnet book. It's enormous; I'd have no place to put it.

      Delete
  4. I've never really understood coffee table books. Like you, once I've read through them, I'm done. Do I keep them and offer them to guests, i.e. "Muffy, darling -- here's a Halston book for you to peruse while I prepare a light supper. Be a dear and put your bubbly on a coaster, mmm?" Unless the books are devoted to a specific artist whose work I like and whose ephemera I keep as a kind of votive against an ugly world, I don't see myself spending that kind of money for a once-over that probably doesn't represent his/her best work. If the text is great, then it becomes more of a reference. I agree that the library is probably the best place. Used bookstores are also good sources for inexpensive, large pictorials.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Big YEA for out-sized fashion books in general. Great for escaping into other lives, other eras. I've collected some over the years, but these days I'm more inclined to get them at the library than purchase them. Just don't have the space for a big collection, plus, most are great for a good look through but don't feel I have to own them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love them, have to have them, then never look at them again. So I have stopped. Don't tempt me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm lucky because I work in a library, so I have access to all these books all the time. So I don't always need to own them all. However, there are some that I keep going back to over and over, like "Fashion" by the Kyoto institute. I think if it is a book on technique, they are worth keeping. I literally have 50 coffee table books on fashion and sewing in my cubicle. I don't know how I would feel if I didn't have access so easily. However, whenever I feel like it's time to return one of them to the stacks, my heart gives a little (by the way, they are fully accessible to anyone who puts a hold on them, so I'm not being selfish)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello

      I also have the FASHION by the KYOTO INSTITUTE books which were given to me as a gift. I love them and find them a fantastic reference point, but boy, are they heavy. Weight training.

      From
      Cee Jay/Leigh on Sea, Essex, England, Britian

      Delete
  8. I don't collect them, but do have several. Some of them I look at constantly for research/inspiration/entertainment, and others not so often, but I do think that they're wonderful. I love sifting through other people's as well. I don't feel a need to buy every one I come across though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. that coffee table is beautiful, what is the story?
    did you see it on a walk? hope someone grabs it

    the coffee table books I love most are the ones where the pictures tell a compelling story with grabby?, grabsome?, inspiring visual information like the Bloomsbury interiors, or jewelike sunken gardens in a city, sadly our libraries don't have circulating copies of the most juicy books, so yes I buy them, also saved many magazines that have sadly since stopped publishing, in my imagination, in my dreams, I have a dedicated library that soars to the ceiling, and the ceiling soars past the tree tops, all this contained in my stone mansion on the cliffs near the ocean

    ReplyDelete
  10. With a coffee table like that, I might have been more tempted to ditch the guests and keep the table!!! I love a good coffee table book but a good coffee table as well!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I believe, Peter that you are referring to the almighty "research materials" and they are tax-deductible. :) I think I'd better get my mitts on that newest Dandy volume. (why aren't you featured??)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I LOVE coffee table books - mostly art books in my case. But also some fun stuff like Calvin & Hobbs. I get to peruse them when the mood strikes; friends and visitors get to see the art I admire (although they're usually here to actually visit, not look through my books; even so, a book will often start a conversation)

    That said, fashion books? Not so much. There is one on a side table (I don't actually own a coffee table, just side tables), but I fear it won't last long...

    ReplyDelete
  13. After moving too often I purged my book collection and now only keep those I think I may want to read again in the future. It's challenging because I love books so I have a holding area (sort of purgatory) for books before I send them onto a new home. Coffee table books make good eye candy and also good coasters so long as they aren't too precious to you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My main weakness when it comes to books are the 'buy 1 get 1 free' specials on English pockets at my local second hand bookstore, but I do have a soft spot for good coffee table books. I mainly see them as inspiration so I don't buy too many (unless it's too cool to pass up, I just bought a humongous book about details in couture garments from the V&A archives and it's awesome, all close ups of embroidery and gorgeous finishes). I do prefer them over things like Pinterest because, as you said, the photographs have been selected and sourced, there is information attached, I can learn something and be sure it's right instead of just looking at a collection of pretty pictures. Plus, books!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Not for me - they're usually too heavy, or the paper is too shiny so you can't see the pictures properly. And you need a coffee table. Cooking books now, that's a completely different matter... Cheers, Anne-Marie

    ReplyDelete
  16. I can usually resist but I recently bought a book on fashion photography that was a wee bit battered and discounted to a third of it's price. It is inspiring on many levels and I am glad I've got it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I found a small A5 (1/2 a letter page for US folks) of Elie Saab gowns; it's by far my favourite. I would pay good money for that in a large size!

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's a yes from me - purely for the fact that they are curated to tell a story. The coffee table would be perfect in my flat.... Pity we're separated by the Atlantic Ocean! Rachel ☺

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've never had someone come over and flip through any of my coffee table books, when placed out on the coffee table. So, I don't buy them since that seems to be their purpose. I still have a few that people have given me and honestly I don't even look through them myself. I like pinterest because I can curate my own. I usually don't love everything that is in a coffee table book and it allows me to have only what Iike.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love them, but it's rare that I buy one. Just recently bought the one on Charles James that coincides with the current Met exhibit (which I will be sure not to miss!) of his work and I find it to be a wellspring of inspiration. I've also borrowed the one on Vionnet from the library so much that I feel like I own it! LOL! It costs $80 and I'm still looking for a used copy......maybe if one of my lottery scratch off tickets was a winner, I might go ahead and buy it....but then again, I think I'll just give myself a birthday present this November and fork over the 80 bucks.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Could that table be the very same one that you had sold years ago?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love coffee table books, but have limited space, so I only allow a purchase if it also has reference value.... like say, OMG I'm drooling over the "The Way We Wore Styles of the 1930s and 40s"! Just looked it up Amazon and unfortunately it's too expensive but I'll definitely be hunting at the library....

    ReplyDelete
  23. YEA! you simply must read "The Coat Route" too, that's bedside table :) Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have a friend who sells rare and antique books and ephemera (Garrison House Books) and she has helped me or given me a few fashion books. The best is AMERICAN FASHION: The life and lines of Adrian, Mainbocher, McCardell, etc. Great text and super photos.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have many fashion, textile, and art coffee table books, including the Vionnet book (i bought it not long after it came out, pricy but worth it) and I Am Dandy.I re-read them quite a bit. I use them for inspiration and research for work (I manage a vintage clothing shop).

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm always tempted to buy books and running out of shelf space rather makes me and my boyfriend consider buying another bookcase than getting rid of books. That said, coffee table books are often expensive enough to make me fight the urge. When I find them cheaply on something Ebay-ish though, it's another matter.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yes! Yes! Yes! Don't get me wrong. I totally live in this century I have a log of books on some sort of electronic device. Whether it be my phone, tablet, and even my PC! But there is something about a book. Something about turning the pages and the weight of it in your hands. I have a lot of coffee table books. Some on fashion. Some on nature. I even have a coffee table book on cocktails. To me they make a home complete, and say a little about who you are!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I pull the trigger on fashion-focused coffee table book ONLY if I have a chance to flip through it first and know that I'm going to be able to drool over at least 50% of the garments or illustrations shown--OR if it's a book on garments from a historical period I obsess over, with photos and/or sketches of the original garments, notes on their fabrics and construction, plus scaled patterns taken by a skilled garment historian. Sometimes I'll buy a book from a fashion exhibit that I didn't get to see in person, like the accompanying book with excellent text, photos of preserved period garments, and period fashion plates from the Italian exhibit "Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion". I still get lost in that one. And someone will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands to get it away from me. But I don't 'collect' fashion books. For the most part, Pinterest does the trick for me. It's fast, easy to find loads of images, and it lets me curate them into specific collections, so it's super useful, even if the original details about the photo or fashion are lost.

    ReplyDelete
  29. My collection includes 2 used copies of the Leonardo DaVinci behemoth (how I ended up with two I can't explain), a Louis Vuitton from Rizzoli, and the Taschen book on Helmut Newton which I bought while visiting the local MCM store (it was just after Christmas, and I rationalized that it was a present to myself!).

    ReplyDelete
  30. Yea for me, but I'm the kind of person who peruses those books and then gets ideas and inspiration. Right now my costuming inspiration is "Dressing A Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars", which is slightly misleading, since it focuses on the 3 more recent films but it has beautiful detail photos and when it comes to costumes I can be a stickler for authenticity. However, the "sister" tome featuring the original 3 films and their costumes comes out later this year. Unfortunately for me the release date isn't until October 28, and we're doing Star Wars for Halloween, so I simply have to go with what references I can get for now. I plan on getting it, though, even if I never make another Star Wars costume. My Amazon wish list is full of fashion coffee table books and if I had the means I'd buy them all.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails