Free Fashion Books you can read from the MET Publication Library

I hope everyone reading this is fine and well. These are some really testing times for the world and we need to stay strong. While staying at home all day might not be what we had planned for 2020, but since we are here, I personally feel that we should make the best out of it. If you are in need of some art & fashion reading, look no further than the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. What once simply provided descriptions of its world-famous permanent collection, information about its exhibitions and a way to pick up some Met-themed merchandise now offers an extensive and eclectic selection of free online books.

With an art historical focus, this comprehensive collection of over 1,600 full-text titles features everything from African to American art. Like traditional print editions, nearly every online art book features a table of contents and information about the author. Unlike hard copies, however, the Met’s free online book also includes readers’ reviews, a list of any awards won, and helpful links to related reads available on the Met website and in print. Additionally, most books can be read conveniently online or downloaded as a handy PDF to your device.

The initiative, reportedly funded by a donation from Hunt and Betsy Lawrence, is integrated with Google Books, allowing users to discover titles through the search engine as well as through the Met’s own catalog.

Here are a few of the fashion titles that really caught my eye in this collection.

The Ceaseless Century: Three Hundred Years of Eighteenth-Century Costume by Richard Martin (1998)

In this book, Richard Martin discusses and analyzes the fashion of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, using the 18th century as a benchmark. He hypothesizes that the book not only shows some outstanding examples of 18th century dresses but also sets out the recurring patterns of revitalization of this style that have occurred over the past 200 years.

Download it here.

American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s–1970s by Richard Martin (1998)

In the early 1930s, American designer sportswear started gaining popularity and later became a major force in the fashion industry. It continued into the 1990s to influence the way women dress. It was a new standard of dressing, one that is right for the lifestyle of the modern woman and that is purely American in its practicality, simplicity, and democratic elements.

Download it here.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton with contributions by Tim Blanks and Susannah Frankel (2011)

Arguably the most influential, imaginative, and stimulating designer of his generation, Alexander McQueen both challenged and expanded fashion conventions to express ideas about race, class, sexuality, religion, and the environment. This book features his most iconic and radical designs, revealing how McQueen adapted and combined the fundamentals of Savile Row tailoring, the specialized techniques of haute couture, and technological innovation to achieve his distinctive aesthetic.

Download it here.

Haute Couture by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1995)

The book focuses on the highly skilled crafts that are essential to the production of haute couture. Separate chapters examine tailoring techniques and finishes, weaving, draping, and the intricate decoration produced by embroiderers, feather-makers, and other craftspeople on whom couturiers rely for the execution of their ideas.

Download it here.

From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress, 1837–1877 by Caroline Goldthorpe (1989)

This lively, illustrated book about Victorian costume during the first part of Queen Victoria’s reign is a delightful introduction to a particularly rich era in costume history. From Queen to Empress vividly evokes fashionable society in Victorian England and America through paintings of the period, contemporary illustrations and photographs, and striking costume photographs taken especially for this volume.

Download it here.

Camp: Notes on Fashion by Andrew Bolton with Karen Van Godtsenhoven and Amanda Garfinkel, with an introduction by Fabio Cleto, and photographs by Johnny Dufort (2019)

Although an elusive concept, “camp” can be found in most forms of artistic expression, revealing itself to be a complex aesthetic that challenges the status quo. As an expression of the playful dynamics between high art and popular culture, fashion both embraces and flaunts such camp modes as irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration. Drawing from Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’,” this multifaceted publication presents the sartorial manifestations of the camp sensibility while contributing new theoretical and conceptual insights to the camp canon through texts and images.

Download it here.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between by Andrew Bolton (2017)

This lavishly illustrated publication weaves an illuminating narrative around Kawakubo’s revolutionary experiments in interstitiality—the space between boundaries. Brilliant new photographs of more than 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear for Comme des Garçons, accompanied by Kawakubo’s commentary on her designs and creative process, reveal her conceptual and challenging aesthetic as never before. A chronology of Kawakubo’s career provides additional context, and an insightful conversation with the author offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of this fashion visionary.

Download it here.

Yves Saint Laurent by Yves Saint Laurent with Diana Vreeland, René Huyghe, Pierre Bergé, Paloma Picasso-Lopez, Marella Agnelli, Catherine Deneuve, Duane Michals, Pierre Boulat, and Nicholas Vreeland (1983)

“I want to give haute couture a kind of wink, a sense of humour—to introduce the whole sense of freedom one sees in the street into high fashion; to give couture the same provocative and arrogant look as punk—but of course with luxury and dignity and style.” So says Yves Saint Laurent, the fashion designer who, for over a quarter of a century, has been hailed as a fashion genius—”the master of the streets of the world” as Diana Vreeland puts it. Here are more than 200 of his greatest designs, dramatically reproduced in color and black and white.

Download it here.

Manus × Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology by Andrew Bolton (2016)

Manus × Machina (“Hand × Machine”) features exceptional fashions that reconcile traditional hand techniques with innovative machine technologies such as 3-D printing, laser cutting, circular knitting, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, and ultrasonic welding. Featuring 90 astonishing pieces, ranging from Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s iconic tweed suit to Karl Lagerfeld’s 3-D-printed version, and from Yves Saint Laurent’s bird-of-paradise dress to Iris van Herpen’s silicone adaptation — all beautifully photographed by Nicholas Alan Cope — this fascinating book is an exploration of both the artistry and the future of fashion.

Download it here.

You can check out the entire catalog here. It has a lot of books from fashion, art, and culture. Do let me know in the comments below if any of these books piqued your interest.

Let us make the most of this time because nothing beats curling up with a good (online) book!

If you are in need of some art & fashion reading, look no further than the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. What once simply provided descriptions of its world-famous permanent collection, information about its exhibitions and a way to pick up some Met-themed merchandise now offers an extensive and eclectic selection of free online books.
Cover Image Courtesy: Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Unsplash