Mar 18 2013 2:30pm

Out of the Closet: Our Romance with Fashion on the Page

Scruples by Judith KrantzWhat is it about romance and fashion that make such an irresistible combination? I’ve always had a soft spot for “sex and shopping novels” (or, as an editor I know once so eloquently put it, “shopping and f*cking novels.”)  We talk a lot about the sex…but what about the shopping part of the equation? In some novels, the passion for fashion is as potent as anything that happens between the sheets. As we get ready to open our closets for spring cleaning, here’s look at a few of the most satisfying sartorial reads this side of Sex and the City.

Scruples by Judith Krantz

A fashion-filled, sexy take on the classic duckling into a swan story, Scruples follows the rise of Wilhemina “Billy” Winthrop Ikehorn Orsini. Billy is an overweight and style-challenged girl who turns into  beauty after a life-changing trip to Paris. Her glamorous ascent continues with her marriage to mogul Ellis Ikehorn. When Ellis dies, he leaves her a very wealthy widow.

What does Billy do with her heartbreak and loads of money? She channels both into creating the most exclusive, successful clothing boutique in the history of Beverly Hills: Scruples.

Gets the red carpet award for: Scruples, published in 1978,  is the original. It’s the Godfather of fashion novels.

Bergdorf Blondes by Plum SykesBergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes

This jewel of a debut novel was written by Vogue contributor and real-life fashionista Plum Sykes; Bergdorf Blondes is the satirical Cinderella tale of  a charmingly clueless Brit looking for love—and Chanel—in Manhattan, along with her best friend Julie Bergdorf (heir to the ritzy Bergdorf Goodman store on the Upper East Side).  This novel is equal parts fashion and romance, with a fairy-tale ending that is more satisfying than a Marc Jacobs sample sale.

Gets the red carpet award for:  The insider status of the author gives the book undeniable verité.

Spring Collection by Judith Krantz

Before The Devil Wears Prada, this novel, the second-to-last by Judith Krantz, showed readers a sexy, soapy, side to the fashion industry. Spring Collection is a two-week romp inside the world of couture and elite models, set in one of the world’s most fashionable—and romantic cities—Paris. Three unknown American models have been picked to star in a Parisian designer’s spring show, and they all belong to the Loring Agency. It's not a coincidence; Justine Loring's father is Lombardi's wealthy backer, but Justine has no interest in playing the role of dutiful daughter. Spunky Frankie Severino, Justine 's second-in-command, suddenly finds herself in charge of taking the three glamazons to Paris. High fashion, drama, and romance ensue.  

Gets the red carpet award for: Scorching hot sex scenes.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie KinsellaConfessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Becky Bloomwood can’t stop shopping, and can’t seem to make enough money to afford her habit. Of course, her quest to get out of debt and land a better job gets her a date with her dream man.  Confessions is set in the U.K., making it clear that our American fixation with credit cards and shopping translates easily across the pond, and vice versa.

Gets the red carpet award for: Launching the six-book Shopaholic series (and film).

Lucia Lucia by Adriana Trigliani

Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of an Italian grocer in 1950s Greenwich Village. Lucia becomes an apprentice to a designer at chic B. Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue. Engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Lucia is torn when she meets a handsome stranger who promises the kind of glam life that girls like her only read about in the society pages. Forced to choose between duty to her family and her own dreams, Lucia takes a path from which all great stories—and lives—are born.

Gets the red carpet award for: Being set in an era of true fashion elegance

Lipstick Jungle by Candace BushnellLipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell 

Nico, Victory and Wendy are three forty-something friends who are movers and shakers in the high-stakes world of New York fashion and entertainment. Nico is the editor in chief of Bonfire magazine, Victory is a fashion designer, and Wendy is president of Parador Pictures. By all appearances, the trio is on top of the world. But corporate politics and private passions threaten to collide in a scandal that could bring one of them to ruin.

Gets the red carpet award for: All the flash and trash that has made Candace Bushnell the current Queen of Shopping and F*cking novels.

Whether it’s the wish fulfillment of a glamour-packed Judith Krantz novel or the sweet, vicarious joy of sharing a downtrodden heroin’s retail therapy in Sophie Kinsella series, when it comes to the fashion on the page, we all have our favorite style. What’s your favorite sex and shopping novel?


Jamie Brenner is the author of THE GIN LOVERS, a romantic drama set in 1920s Manhattan (St. Martin’s Press). Writing under the pen name Logan Belle, her modern day re-telling of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, MISS CHATTERLEY, will publish May 13 (Pocket Star). For more, please visit or follow her @jamieLbrenner.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I think the only one of these I've read is Judith Krantz's Scruples, but I make up for that by having read Scruples a gazillion times. I loved her transformation, and for the longest time thought that the fashion Krantz described was the best possible fashion ever.
K.M. Jackson
2. kwanawrites
Scruples was fantastic and I loved the mini series (or was it a movie?) though, like crazy. I do remember all that glitz making my eyes water. I also loved the Shopaholic series. Now you're making me want to read the others. Great post!
Jamie Brenner
3. jamieloganbrenner
@kwanawrites @MFrampton A year ago Natalie Portman optioned Scruples and the show was in development at ABC. But I don't think it got picked up by the network!
5. Alie
I really enjoyed Nora Robert's Born In series, which deals with a fashion model in the first book. Not all about the fashion industry, but it's good!
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