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Fashion books that offer more than good looks

Fashion books that offer more than good looks

fashion books usually appeal to the eye with zippy photographs, playful illustrations, arresting typefaces. But the best of them will offer something for the head and heart — a surprising point of view, thoughtful essays, a distinctive style — that makes the experience memorable. Consider these three new books: “John Galliano Unseen” (Yale University Press, $60) by Robert Fairer; “Food in Vogue” (Abrams, $75), edited by Taylor Antrim; and “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” (The Museum of Modern Art, $45) by Paola Antonelli and Michelle Millar Fisher.

Visuals — big, bold, almost impossibly saturated with color and often witty as hell — bring a delicious bite to “Food in Vogue,” a look at the fashion magazine’s approach to food over the decades. It’s an attitude best described as totemic rather than home ec/useful — and that’s the fun of it. I mean, who knew frozen vegetables could look so good? Well, Irving Penn did — and the proof is the very first photo, his, in the book.

Whether it’s “Chicken in Heels” from Helmut Newton in 2003 or a Eric Boman’s plush toy bunny climbing into a stewpot for 2014’s “Hop to It,” these images speak to something more elegant, exotic, urgently elemental than the usual what’s-for-dinner ho-hum. The photos are arranged in an order clearly meant to surprise and, perhaps, shock. The emotional zing is compounded by the oversized (10-by-13.4-inch) format that allows the images to practically leap from the page.

Adding to the appeal is a collection of food-themed articles and essays, notably from Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue’s much-lauded food columnist.

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