With an orange cover as distinctive as Grace Coddington’s signature hairstyle, Grace: A Memoir, exists in two spheres: as a beautiful art object and as a book. Coddington’s own drawings and illustrations offset the writing with beautiful archival photos scattered throughout the book coinciding with some of the more important life events that Coddington outlines. Grace: A Memoir is filled with anecdotes of Coddington’s life from her upbringing at the small Tre-Arddur Bay Hotel in Anglesey, Wales that her parents owned to her 70th birthday party hosted by Anna Wintour and VOGUE. Before the successful 2009 documentary, The September Issue, Coddington was generally unknown outside of the fashion community even though she has held the position of Creative Director of VOGUE since 1988.
Since her documentary debut, Coddington has become a more visible figure in popular culture and is in the fashion zeitgeist with other icons like André Leon Talley and Anna Wintour. Coddington outshone Wintour in The September Issue with her acerbic wit and her book is in the same tone with a devoted attention to detail. When she described her first sexual encounter with a London painter and part-time model she remarks that he arrived to her room wearing striped cotton pajamas, a steaming cup of cocoa and that “his air was not that of someone about to read me a bedtime story.” The book is honest and self-deprecating although at times it seems unfocused. The men she had affairs and relationships with seem to be the most vibrant and lengthy tales, but she rushes through trauma in her life, like her miscarriage, with just a few lines.
There is heavy name-dropping, but for fans of the fashion industry and fashion history there is a vicarious thrill that comes from learning that the origins of Twiggy’s well-known spider eyelash technique came from Coddington before Twiggy was even born. This book is not for everyone, but if you enjoyed The September Issue, are a fan of VOGUE or are interested in fashion or modeling it is a must read.