thenewjewelry,trends+traditions by Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner (Thames and Hudson: $35).
This is an art book (as one might surmise by the artsy, lower-case title) as well as a fashion book, an extraordinary treat for the eyes. Dormer, an arts writer, and Turner, co-founder of a London jewelry gallery, have assembled stunning photographs of much of the best modern jewelry in the world.
Their text is spare and informed, focusing on mainstream abstract jewelry, mainstream figurative work and radical departures ("jewelry as theatre").
In addition, brief biographies of the jewelry makers are provided as are a list of important exhibitions with catalogues and a list of publications featuring such jewelry.
But most significantly, the pieces contained in this book are so exquisitely photographed and presented it is as if the reader has almost surveyed a most important exhibition without ever leaving his or her chair.
Man at His Best: The Esquire Guide to Style by the editors of Esquire magazine (Esquire Press: $24.95).
This is a handsome book. Lots of glossy color photographs. Classy art direction. Stylish copy. In short, all the things you would expect from Esquire magazine. Except this is better than the fashion pages usually found in the monthly.
That's because the clothing, shoes and accessories photographed and described here are the classics that most men really wear--not the latest designs from the menswear showrooms that the magazine frequently prefers.
In short, this book concentrates more on style than fashion, and that's why it's so appealing. It also carries that Esquire authority of being the last word , which is always reassuring to anyone shelling out $25 for an advice book.
In addition, the book offers tips on relaxation techniques, daily shaving, getting organized, packing and more.
Couture: The Great Designers by Caroline Rennolds Milbank (Stewart, Tabori & Chang: $65).
While Milbank loosely uses the word couture to encompass the work of both traditional couturiers as well as ready-to-wear designers, she has nonetheless produced a volume that's easily in contention for most beautiful fashion book of the year.
She's gathered both a stunning array of photographs and information for her portraits of designers from the 19th Century's Charles Frederick Worth to today's Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Perry Ellis and Issey Miyake, among others.
Previously the head of the costume department at Sotheby's and now a New York-based appraiser of antique and couturier clothing for museums, auction galleries and collectors, Milbank brings the eye of the social historian to her reportage.
While it's clear she appreciates the work of the designers she considers worthy of being called "great," the author doesn't hesistate to note that Ralph Lauren, for instance, sometimes adapts styles from Brooks Brothers, or that the late Charles James was "unhirable" by the 1970s, "surrounded by stories about his reneging on business deals and his growing obsession with having his genius rediscovered."
For those who want to vicariously experience the grandeur of fashion as well as some of its inside story, this book may prove just the ticket.