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Grace: A Memoir
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157 of 165 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've given this review two stars (instead of the one I considered) because of the charming pen and ink drawings by Grace that populate many of the pages in this book. The narrative, however, leaves just about everything to be desired. Like so many others, my introduction to Grace was The September Issue. Without effort, simply being herself, she walked away with the film. Sadly, the same cannot be said for this book. Grace is not someone who writes and she isn't someone who reads; that's a pretty lethal combo when it comes to creating an autobiography. Even a co-writer can't create magic with an absence of material. Mostly, this is a book of lists - of models, of photographers, of shoots. But there's very little meat and almost nothing of the woman. One comes away with no real insight into Grace; she's a cipher - a recording secretary, in a way. There's just one notable bit of bitchiness when she takes a page to slam the iconic Polly Mellen in a fashion that is surprising in a book where the comments about almost everyone else are basically bland. The only time she really sparks to life is in the last bit of the book when she launches into a detailed discussion of her cats and her abiding love for felines. The rest of the time, there's plenty of words about traveling here and there, and some small insight into the difference between modeling then (in the late 50s/early 60s when she embarked upon her modeling career and much of the time it was a one-on-one situation with just a photographer and a model, possibly an assistant, too) versus the cumbersome group effort it has become today. One yearns for more in the early sections but it's just not there. Grace's reluctance to reveal herself is palpable. And she succeeds. At the end of the book we know precious little more about her than we do at the beginning. Her secrets remain intact, and what the reader gets is a scattering of drawings and some great photos to study. Grace is, by and large, AWOL.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'd recommend anyone buying "Grace", by Grace Coddington to first watch the documentary, "The September Issue". If you haven't seen it in the theater or rented it, you can view it for pay on Amazon. The movie is about the process of putting together the much storied September issue of "Vogue". It features editor Anna Wintour and is seconded by Grace Coddington - the fashion editor of the magazine.

Grace Coddington, who recently turned 70, is one of the most important people in fashion today. Beginning as a model in the swinging London of the 1960's, she moved into the production side of the industry as she aged. After stints with British "Vogue" and Calvin Klein in New York City, she went to work American "Vogue" in 1988 with Anna Wintour as editor. The two have set the pace for fashion ever since; Wintour who says "decisiveness" is her best virtue in editing the magazine and Coddington whose instinctive feel for both photography and fashion gives Wintour the pictures to be "decisive" about. In her book - sort of half memoir/half autobiography - Coddington looks at her life both in her professional and private worlds.

Coddington is fairly open - as far as I can tell - about the people she worked with in fashion. She's perhaps a little "nicer" in the book about her relationship with Wintour than she was in the documentary, but since they've worked hand-in-glove since 1988, they must get along pretty well. Coddington takes the reader behind the scenes of both the designer fashion shows reported on in "Vogue", as well as the fashion shoots she creates for the magazine. She uses both photographs and sweet pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate both her private and public lives. Since I was reading a pre-pub copy of the book due out in November, 2012, I couldn't get an exact sense of the "artiness" of the book. It SEEMED like it would be issued as a small coffee-table book with shiny paper. It'll be a beautiful book, in any case. The pictures are of her family and friends and some of the famous "shoots" she's set up for Vogue. Also interesting are the pictures of Coddington's modeling career. She's not a conventional beauty, but had one of the most unique looks in the business.

I really cannot recommend the book to general interest readers. I can, however, heartily recommend it to any reader even tangentially interested the world of fashion. Coddington has produced, with the help of writer Michael Roberts, a fascinating look at fashion today.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Grace's memoir is a little like movies that can't figure out what they want to be and the tone flip flops around, never sticking to one.

Coddington clearly has had an amazing life and she shows us a slice of cultural history from the inside and if you are interested in the fashion/modeling world during the early days, you will enjoy the book. However, her personal life is woven in and out of her professional life in a very uneven fashion. She glosses over the most painful parts of her life, but then delves a tiny bit deeper into other parts so you think you're going to get a juicy memoir sometimes, but you never do.

Her reporting of the early days is extensive and interesting, as we move into the current day, she gets less detailed and less interesting. We don't anything about how she really felt about almost anything. It's very detached except when she's talking about how she drew her eyeliner and her cats. In fact, her most passionate and bizarre chapter is all about her cats and to what lengths she goes to in order to take care of them. We get more info on the cats than on her infertility or feelings about it.

I did enjoy the parts about the early days of modern modeling, but overall it's just ok. I think the rating system is jacked for making three stars "it's ok" and one star "i hated it" so i'm giving it two stars because it's not that great and it left me with a little sour taste in my mouth. If she really didn't want her personal life in the book, then she should have and could have taken it out and focused on the professional side and made it a stronger book.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having long been aware of Grace Coddington's exemplary visual skills and freaky appearance (straight out of The Addams' Family), it defies all logic that she would produce such a bland and boring memoir. Want a tone deaf play by play of someone's life? Then this is book for you! Need a book to get you ready for bed or dental surgery? Reach for this. Also, considering Grace was a young and active player in London's happening circles during the Swinging Sixties, it's shocking she has not one fun story to share. She was a model and mixed with the famous movers and shakers of the day, but Grace wasn't like them. She hardly drank and didn't take drugs and, more importantly for the reader, Grace didn't actively engage in any of the craziness that era is known for. What a let down. Ms. Coddington might as well have been the decorative paper on the wall or a plant sitting in the corner. Yes, she drops names all over the place but nothing captivating is ever revealed about any of her interactions with these people.

Also, there's the subject of AIDS. Yes, Grace Coddington mentions it, as well as the loss fellow fashionista, Antonio Lopez (illustrator par excellence) and friend Tina Chow. Tina married the man that Grace divorced, the famous restauranteur Michael Chow. As time went by, they became friends. In paragraph after paragraph, Grace explains how charmed she was by Tina's personality and sharp fashion sense. Realizing an opportunity, Grace set up a photo shoot between Tina and Cecil Beaton for the pages of Vogue. Beaton showed up hours late, putting Grace into a snit. However, Tina's death, one of the earlier of the AIDS scourge, is explored in a mere two sentences. In one of the two, she relays being unaware that a woman could succumb to AIDS. Frankly, Ms. Coddington's emotional presence here is nil. You may chalk it all up to British reserve, but this memoir does her legacy a huge disservice because without it at least there was some mystique behind her persona.

Actually, Grace Coddington is as emotionally remote as her Ice Queen boss, Anna Wintour - all style and no substance whatsoever. Would have hoped for something more than this very flat story. I just kept flipping the pages hoping it would eventually blossom, and it didn't. The exposition goes like this: "I did this . . . ," and "I wore this . . . " or "I traveled to ____ (insert Paris, London, South Africa, etc.)" Grace gives the logistics of her many photo shoots with the names of the related photographers and models, but little else. Why did she even bother?

This "memoir" - and I hate to call it that - may be the most superficial I've ever read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I know of Grace Coddington from the September Issue, the movie about American Vogue. The iconic scenes for me were her interactions with famous editor Anna Wintour. In this book she discusses her years as a fashion model and her life with the celebrities and fashion innovators of her day.
I found the book interesting. She has been so many places and has been a part of the fashion industry for over fifty years. It is a foreign world to me, but fascinating nonetheless. The pictures are beautiful and it is fun to compare them to her descriptions of their conceptions.
For me the most interesting parts are her perceptions of beauty. She prefers the quirky to the symmetric and the unadorned when possible. She ages as she ages, and that is a fresh perspective. I always enjoy a retrospective from someone at the top tier of their sphere of influence, and this is such a book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed The September Issue and was hoping this book would be a continued exploration of Grace Coddington, a person I found creative, unpredictable, and thoroughly interesting. Unfortunately, her memoir paints her as the most vapid, shallow and uninteresting cliche to be found in the fashion industry. Nowhere are there insightful thoughts like in The September Issue (my favorite was her photographic advice to always keep your eyes open and not buried in a phone). Instead we're treated to such revelations about her true character ("I only hire beautiful assistants") and shallow narcissism, mostly about her clothes, hair and men. In one anecdote she recounts an attack on Anna Wintour by an animal activist. An interesting subject to explore, but all we get from Grace is a vague description of what went down ("Or whatever it is those anti-fur activists do...") It's a sentiment you'd expect from an out-of-touch, pampered and stupid Upper Eastside socialite, and - sadly - that's the picture Grace gives us in this book. A profound disappointment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
During the early 1980's when I was considering a career, I really wanted to become a fashion editor, this was around tthe time that the orginal Supermodels were coming up, Anna Wintour was changing Vogue, Versace ruled, etc,etc. But that choice of career never panned out. I realized that it was way more than sitting front row at a fashion show and it was better to have a job where you could afford designer clothers! LOL Anyway I just finished reading Grace Coddibgton's memoir and truly enjoyed it.I was always fimilar with her woork at Vogue and enjoyed her in the September Issue. Her memoir is honest, she is not bitchy or gossipy but she does share her truths about the fashion indutry and its many players. She does not slam Anna Wintour at all, but makes certain comments based on thier working life and work style together. They do get along and truly respect each other. She comments here about her other colleages such as Polly Mellen, especially Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, the supoermodel era, etc. She does shed light on how ALL the fashion photographers and designers are so ego driven and tells of some of their spats, when they dont get thier way. And she does talk about a good amount of people who were in and out of her life as a model and fashion editor. I must mention that she has included some of her pictures when she modeled, I loved those she was very attractive, thier is one picture that I love, it was from 1962 and for British HArpers Bazaar, where she looks so good, the pictuce reminded me so much of the ad for Versace back in the 1980's that featured Linda E, Christy T, and Helenana C . It is an easy read and I read the book in 2 days(I had to stop because I didn't want to finsih it in one sitting) It also has some of her most famous work she has done with a variety of fashion photographers and her work both at British and American Vogue. On a side note, thru this book I have a new found "thought" about Anna Wintour and the complexies of her job as editor in chief (I dont envy her at all)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 6, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Anna Wintour agreed to cooperate for the film, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE. Grace Coddington told her not to expect her to be in it. (Of course Coddington stole the show.) Anna Wintour's agreement to cooperate may have been obtained in order to counter the fall-out from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

Grace Coddington grew up at Trearddur Bay Hotel on the Irish Sea, an establishment run by her parents. She learned to play ping-pong well enough to beat the guests. In Grace's family the members of the family were not encouraged to see themselves as Welsh.

In 1959 Coddington attended modeling school in London for two weeks and was then placed on an agency's books. She was a character rather than a pretty model. Vidal Sassoon was very important to her success. She appeared in a lot of hair shows. Just when her modeling career was becoming serious, Grace Coddington was injured in a car accident. She had five plastic surgeries and didn't work for two years. To hide the damage to her face, Coddington changed her eye make-up.

When Grace lived in France she developed a more sophisticated sense of clothes. The dancing to French pop music was called ye-ye. She worked for French VOGUE and ELLE. Weekends were spent at Saint- Tropez. The French are superior in matters of style she has come to believe.

Coddington's Paris moment lasted four to five years. It was a period to think of her life beyond modeling. She was told she should be a fashion editor. Her instinct for styling was recognized by an editor. Her career in journalism began at British VOGUE as a junior fashion editor in 1968. Grace spent nineteen years there. She married twice, briefly.

The book is filled with descriptions of photo shoots, props, photographers' likes and dislikes. After leaving British VOGUE, Calvin Klein offered Grace employment as his design editor. It was a short stint. American fashion has much more to do with business than the English and French versions. When Anna Wintour moved to American VOGUE as Editor-in-Chief in 1985, she invited Grace Coddington to begin with her as Fashion Director. (In 1995 Coddington became Creative Director.)

The accounts of the foibles and strengths of the various editors at American VOGUE make amazing reading. Staff feuds resembled the emotional storms at a girls' boarding school. A discussion of bling and Miami with details, circa 1992, is good for a laugh.

At the end of the book is a sampling of the works, the photo shoots, assembled by photographer. This is excellent. (There are also drawings and text-driven photographs.) It is entertaining, surprisingly, since I am not a fashionista.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Easy review.... Part 1 blah, blah, blah... I was beautiful, I got married way too many times, I know every model's name (I am so cool). Part 2 - kiss, kiss, kisses to Anna. She is so wonderful!
oy vey!!!! Thought this would fun and interesting. NOT!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon December 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The standard disclaimer applies. I received this book as a promotional copy from GoodReads and what I can only assume was an overzealous use of the 'request this book' button.

In all the technical ways that a book can be so this one was completely adequate. The author is a sufficiently skilled one and has many diverse stories to tell from her life and she shares them with openness and skill. Her career in the fashion industry for several decades is clearly one worth writing about as she seems to have met everyone who was ever anyone or even had a chance to be anyone. Unlike many memoirs her presentation is detailed without being egotistical and on a personal level she seems quite a nice person. She describes her own problems with anxiety around people and crowds in a way that I find very easy to relate to and sympathize with. Grace Coddington presents to her readers a good life well-lived.

I was rather astonished though by the almost dismissive manner in which she related events from her own life. She seems to have managed to divorced half a dozen husbands with barely a mention of them. Major milestones in her life fly by only hinted at in some cases. Perhaps this was intended to emphasize her career rather than personal life but it did rather leave me wanting more of Grace the person rather than Grace the public figure.

In the end though this was completely impossible to wade through. After 120 pages of name-dropping about people I'd never heard of (but obviously should have) I quickly skimmed through the rest and put it aside. It's well-executed but not for everyone.
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