Grace by Grace Coddington | Book review
The Vogue creative director spills the contents of her makeup bag but not her emotions.
There’s a reason Random House paid a pretty penny for a memoir from Grace Coddington, longtime creative director at Vogue: R.J. Cutler’s 2009 documentary The September Issue. The behind-the-scenes look at the magazine brought Coddington unexpected fame. In it, the fiery redhead resolutely defends a more historical, artistic portrayal of fashion that often contradicts editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s obsession with what’s new and what’s next. To satisfy the Gracemania, the 71-year-old reluctant celebrity collaborated with Michael Roberts to write about her fashionable journey from Welsh schoolgirl to hardworking model to high-powered editor (and cat lady).
Visually, Grace is a delight, featuring Coddington’s quirky illustrations, ample photo galleries and a portfolio of her inspired styling work for British and American Vogue. The narrative itself is less revelatory. With a dishy, slightly detached tone, she recalls modeling gigs in London and Paris, glamorous outfits (“In the ’70s I dressed almost exclusively in Saint Laurent.”) and many encounters with the très riche and très chic (including, but not limited to, a brief makeout sesh with Mick Jagger). Coddington guides the reader down her career path, dropping more names than an intoxicated mail carrier, but offers little in the way of thoughtful reflection or personal disclosure. For instance, a traumatic, late-term miscarriage is summed up in a single sentence, while the contents of her model bag are recounted in precise detail: a push-up bra, heated hair rollers—“You had these if you were madly up-to-date and avant-garde, which I was.” Grace is fashion-focused, and as a story about an evolving industry, it includes some fascinating, tell-all anecdotes. Yet as a portrait of Grace herself, it tells only some.