Fashion Climbing: Book summary and reviews of Fashion Climbing by Bill Cunningham

Fashion Climbing

A Memoir with Photographs

by Bill Cunningham

Fashion Climbing by Bill Cunningham X
Fashion Climbing by Bill Cunningham
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2018
    256 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

The untold story of a New York City legend's education in creativity and style.

For Bill Cunningham, New York City was the land of freedom, glamour, and, above all, style. Growing up in a lace-curtain Irish suburb of Boston, secretly trying on his sister's dresses and spending his evenings after school in the city's chicest boutiques, Bill dreamed of a life dedicated to fashion. But his desires were a source of shame for his family, and after dropping out of Harvard, he had to fight them tooth-and-nail to pursue his love.

When he arrived in New York, he reveled in people-watching. He spent his nights at opera openings and gate-crashing extravagant balls, where he would take note of the styles, new and old, watching how the gowns moved, how the jewels hung, how the hair laid on each head. This was his education, and the birth of the democratic and exuberant taste that he came to be famous for as a photographer for The New York Times. After two style mavens took Bill under their wing, his creativity thrived and he made a name for himself as a designer. Taking on the alias William J. - because designing under his family's name would have been a disgrace to his parents - Bill became one of the era's most outlandish and celebrated hat designers, catering to movie stars, heiresses, and artists alike. Bill's mission was to bring happiness to the world by making women an inspiration to themselves and everyone who saw them. These were halcyon days when fashion was all he ate and drank. When he was broke and hungry he'd stroll past the store windows on Fifth Avenue and feed himself on beautiful things.

Fashion Climbing is the story of a young man striving to be the person he was born to be: a true original. But although he was one of the city's most recognized and treasured figures, Bill was also one of its most guarded. Written with his infectious joy and one-of-a-kind voice, this memoir was polished, neatly typewritten, and safely stored away in his lifetime. He held off on sharing it - and himself - until his passing. Between these covers, is an education in style, an effervescent tale of a bohemian world as it once was, and a final gift to the readers of one of New York's great characters.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The glamorous world of 20th-century fashion comes alive in Cunningham's masterful memoir both because of his exuberant appreciation for stylish clothes and his sharp assessment of those who wore them." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. This madcap insider account of the mid-20th-century fashion world is a gift for fans of Cunningham's photography." - Library Journal

"A lively tale of a life in style and a delightful homage to the days before women stopped wearing hats." - Kirkus

"This lively, compelling, and invaluable social history tells us as much about the mores of the age as it does about the era's seismic fashion revolutions and reflects the wonder that Bill saw in creation throughout his life." - Hamish Bowles

"We missed Bill Cunningham terribly. So thank goodness for this book. Here comes a snap, crackle and pop of a memoir. Humble, sparse and vivacious. Funny! Forthright and elegant. Bill is back and we are grateful." - Maira Kalman

"As Mr. Cunningham might have said, 'a real dilly' of a book - the story of a man who turned a love of beauty into an exquisite life." - Lauren Collins

"Fashion Climbing has everything you'd want in a fashion memoir (industry politics, elaborate window displays, hijinks at galas), but it's also a manifesto for living authentically. Just like Bill Cunningham's photography, this book is anti-snobbery, pro-having-fun-at-all-costs, and awake to the pleasures of being oneself." - Tavi Gevinson

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Author Information

Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, the iconic New York Times photographer, was the creative force behind the columns "On the Street" and "Evening Hours." Cunningham dropped out of Harvard and moved to New York City at 19, eventually starting his own hat design business under the name "William J." His designs were featured in Vogue, The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, and Jet. While covering fashion for publications including Women's Wear Daily and The Chicago Tribune, he took up photography, which led to him becoming a regular contributor to the New York Times in the late 1970s. Cunningham was the subject of the documentary "Bill Cunningham, New York." His contributions to New York City were recognized in 2009 when he was designated a "living landmark."

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