Most of us met Grace Coddington for the first time in The September Issue, the behind-the-scenes documentary that detailed the intense process behind Vogue’s largest and most important issue of the year. It was fascinating for so many reasons, primarily because it offered us an inside look into the elusive Anna Wintour’s seemingly glamorous life. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we saw plenty of Anna (and she was just as icy and brilliant as we expected), but we walked out of the theater thinking about Grace.
When Grace’s memoir came out just before Thanksgiving last year, I was instantly intrigued. This is a woman who not only has the audacity to stand up to Anna Wintour (as we saw more than a few times in the documentary), but also the confidence to rock that billowing cloud of I-don’t-care-what-you-think red hair within the halls of Vogue—where the word “critical” is likely an understatement. After reading some initial rave reviews, I decided to pick up a copy for myself. As soon as I flipped back that perfectly chic orange cover, I was hooked.
Truth be told, I am not very into fashion. This isn’t to say that I’m not into clothes; I’ve just never been one to drool over fashion magazines or stalk the recaps of runway shows—just not my thing. But upon reading the first few chapters of this book, it’s easy to see what makes the industry alluring to so many—especially in the glory days of 60s and 70s when Grace was just getting her start.
With a frank and honest writing style, Grace paints a vivid and compelling picture of her life experiences. She shares everything from her modest upbringing off of the northern coast of Wales to her first nude photo shoot as a model, her famous and not-so-famous boyfriends to her exclusive social circle (ahem, Manolo Blahnik), her least favorite celebrities to work with to her beloved cat children. Every anecdote is included for a purpose, filling in the blanks for those of us who aren’t well-versed in the world of fashion.
Rarely sugar coating even the most painful situations, Grace is completely straightforward, and there is very little “fluff”. The press has been critical of the fact that she glosses over certain issues, arguing that she should be handling heavier topics, such as a disfiguring car accident, with a little more emotion and detail. But to me, the pared down writing style seems perfectly “Grace”. She approaches life with a no-nonsense attitude, and her book is no different–if Grace didn’t feel that something was worth including, it probably wasn’t.
There is love, friendship, disappointment, luck, death, divorce, risk, determination, and, of course, plenty of fashion. Bonus: the pages are peppered with Grace’s own illustrations and photographs from her personal collection. Really, what’s not to love?
Have you read Grace’s memoir? What did you think? If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? I highly recommend it!