“Grace” A Memoir by Grace Coddington

From the very first page, I completely enjoyed reading “Grace” A Memoir by Grace Coddington. Like most fashionista’s out there, I’ve had a mega-crush on the red-head fashion icon that is American Vogue’s Creative Director, ever since I first saw The September Issue the day that documentary came out in 2009. Before watching the documentary, I did not know much about her. Coddington was the unexpected star of the film. She was very warm and funny, unlike the Editor-an-Chief of the American Vogue, Anna Wintour, who was shown cold and intimidating. Since the documentary’s release, interest in Coddington and her career in fashion have been off the charts. And I feel as if though this memoir is her response to that documentary.

Like every other fashionista out there, once Grace Coddington’s memoir came out back in 2012, I ran straight to Barnes and Nobles to purchase a copy and carefully put it on my bookshelf, and haven’t had the time to actually sit down and read it, until last month, when we as a class were assigned to work on this memoir paper/presentation assignment. I was exposed to Vogue ever since I was 12 years old. And since I was 18 years old, I have been dedicated to this Conde Nast publication so much that I kept back issues from a decade ago until recently.

“It always arrived rather late in the month, and there were usually only one or two in stock. Presumably, Harper’s Bazaar was around then, too, but for me it was always Vogue,” (Grace – A Memoir by Grace Coddington, p30), Coddington describes how she anxiously awaited the arrival of a current issue of Vogue, which was at least three months outdated because she needed to order it on “rush-copy.”

After watching The September Issue, my admiration for Grace continued to grow. Although her memoir starts off rather slow and changes gears quite quickly, as Grace tells how she moved to central London as a young teenager to pursue modelling in the 60’s. I had absolutely no clue she had such a high profile modelling career and was basically the Karen Elson of her time. Being a top model, Coddington writes about how she was exposed to certain perks in the fashion industry, like traveling the world, wearing haute couture fashions (even as “model off-duty” wear), relationships with famous men within the scene; like Michael Chow of Mr. Chow restaurant fame and being friends with world known photographers like Bruce Weber, Norman Parkinson, Patrick Demarchelier, Helmut Newton and Annie Leibovitz.

I did not know that Coddington was so skilled with a pen and sketchbook. She has already published a book of her sketches proving her obsession of cats titled, The Catwalk Cats, she shows her age and shamelessly but confidently admits that rather than taking notes or photos while sitting front row during fashion shows, she prefers to sketch each look by hand as they come down the runway. The old school way. As well as, two photography books of her work titled, Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue, and her recent photography book titled. Grace: The American Vogue Years.

In 1986, Coddington also worked as a Creative Director at Calvin Klein for a short period of time after leaving British Vogue for New York City. In my opinion, the most charming parts of the book has to be her adorable sketches at the beginning of each chapter and the amazingly fun cartoon sketch in the inside cover of legendary Vogue editors and contributors.

I thought Coddington’s memoir is a captivating recount of her upbringing, her fashionable modelling years and life at British Vogue and American Vogue. Her words are accompanied by unique scribbly drawings throughout the book, the same style in which she would draw every outfit at runway shows as they walked her way in the front row. The book puts Coddington’s transition into perspective, from the naive, young girl in Wales to experienced, confident creative director at Vogue magazine.

I thought the book is very simply written. She stays consistent within each chapter. It doesn’t really jump around from one to text to another. The book is 333 pages. It has big text and is easy to follow along. It is definitely an easy read and you can finish reading the book in two day. It took me about two weeks to finish it, because I didn’t have time and was reading one chapter each night before bed.

I admire Coddington’s highly recognized position at Vogue, her love of cats and her undeniably intelligent, classy and down-to-earth personality, which immediately placed her in the top women I look up to. She looks like a crazy gypsy red-head and is the only person who can tell Anna Wintour that she’s wrong. If you’ve seen the documentary “The September Issue” it’s hard not to be taken with her. 

I will genuinely “steal” the effortlessly simply text, which Coddington communicates through her writing, and the consistency of each chapter. I love the way she relives times in her life, and is able to laugh at herself and share her honest reflections and opinions on the industry that she was destined to thrive and be successful in.

Grace Coddington will always inspire me to pursue a career in fashion.

This review was written in November 2017 for a memoir writing workshop at MSU Denver.

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