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Monday, December 17, 2012

Of Cats and Models—Grace: A Memoir

Posted by Elizabeth Mollo on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Truthfully, before The September Issue came out I had no idea who Grace Coddington was, and the same could be said of most people. I was, as I later discovered, very acquainted with her work. Being an avid Vogue reader and subscriber since 1999, I count her editorials as some of my favorite of all time, and learning about the woman behind those beautiful pictures was an eye opening experience.

Grace: A Memoir, begins with her recounting her childhood spent in Wales living in her family's quaint hotel. While part of it occurred during World War II, and they were by no means well off, it was all in all very charming, at least the way she writes it. The story moves on to her becoming a model after winning a contest for British Vogue in the early '60s, and famously being the first person to wear the Five Point Cut by Vidal Sassoon, but then that career suddenly came to a halt when her boyfriend ran through a red light and straight into a delivery van. Her eyelid was sliced off, and she would endure five plastic surgery operations in two years. She did eventually return to modeling, which inevitably forged the path to her career behind the lens.

I don't want to give too much away, because the stories she writes are absolutely fascinating, with her divulging specific details about shoots that happened 40 years ago. I will say that she has worked with every important photographer, model, hair and make-up artist, and designer in the business. She has also worked with many celebrities, and as she said in The September Issue, she is not a fan of the way celebrities have essentially invaded the fashion world, going as far as to refuse to style a celebrity's cover shoot if they are hard to manage, and if she can help it.

One of my favorite chapters of the book has nothing to do with fashion at all. Titled "On Cats: In which our heroin has cats up to there, cats in her hair, a few cat-astrophes in the country, and goes cat-crazy with Martha Stewart." (Yes, all of the chapter titles are like that.) She writes about her love of cats and each cat she has ever owned. (I want to point out that while reading this chapter my crazy calico cat Koo Koo decided to get all up in my business, putting her head in front of the book while I read. True story!) Her love for cats is quite deep, even going to the lengths of having a regular cat psychic that she often turns to when trouble arises.

Other points of interest of the book include adorable sketches depicting her life and the people in it, as well as a selection of photographs of her work on both sides of the camera. Included is a shot from my favorite editorial of all time that actually was the inspiration for my senior collection:

The Total Lady by Steven Klein Vogue- September, 2003
  • "The Total Lady" by Steven Klein Vogue- September, 2003

To sum it up, if you love fashion, read this book! It also makes a great gift, because all of your fashion friends are probably dying to read it.

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