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The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places | Introduced by Hamish Bowles | Designed by Charles Churchward | Knopf | 384 pages | $75

This handsome quarto volume is a classic guilty pleasure. It is a tribute to good genes, inherited wealth, and the fluid game known as fashion. Librarians should classify it as plutocracy porn. Unabashed Marxists will find in its sumptuous pages all the indictment they need of conspicuous consumption. Aspiring fashionistas— once they recover from their shock and awe— will be left with the unsettling sense that style has a ruthless power that is easier to appreciate than achieve. And fans of Project Runway will be forced to recognize that that show's cheesy charms are as aesthetically potent as a three-day-old open can of Diet Coke.

As fashion documents go, this is the real thing. Pretty faces, striking settings, and couture may be the subjects, but the book's real heroes are the stylists who orchestrate the fantasies and the photographers who realize them. It contains an A-list of shutterbugs: Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Jonathan Becker, Toni Frissell, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Edward Steichen, and Annie Leibovitz. Considered as an artifact, The World in Vogue is a masterpiece of design. It would make an exquisite gift for nobs, snobs, or voyeurs.

— Peter Kadzis

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