Tales from the Back Row: An Outsider's View from Inside the Fashion Industry

Tales from the Back Row: An Outsider’s View from Inside the Fashion Industry

“Hilarious, insightful and smart. A must-read for anyone who wears clothes.” —Chelsea Handler

*US Weekly, “Riveting Reads for Labor Day”*
*Bustle, “2015 Books Every Funny Woman Should Read” and “September 2015’s Best Books”*
*Refinery29 “Fall’s Most Highly Anticipated Nonfiction Reads”*
*theSkimm, “Skimm Reads”*
*Popsugar, “Motivational Books You Should Read this Fall”*
*AM NY, “New Books for New Yorkers to Read This Fall”*

The Lowdown on High Fashion

Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell knows what it’s really like to be a young woman working in the fashion industry.

In Tales from the Back Row, Amy—funny and fearless—takes readers behind the stage of New York’s hottest fashion shows to meet the world’s most influential models, designers, celebrities, editors, and photographers. But first, she has to push her way through the crowds outside, where we see the lengths people go to be noticed by the lurking paparazzi, and weave her way through the packed venue, from the very back row to the front. And as Amy climbs the ladder (with tips about how you can, too), she introduces an industry powered by larger-than-life characters: she meets the intimidating Anna Wintour and the surprisingly gracious Rachel Zoe, not to mention the hilarious Chelsea Handler, and more. As she describes the allure of Alexander Wang’s ripped tights and Marchesa’s Oscar-worthy dresses, Amy artfully layers in something else: ultimately this book is about how the fashion industry is an exaggerated mirror of human fallibility—reflecting our desperate desire to belong, to make a mark, to be included. For Amy is the first to admit that as much as she is embarrassed by the thrill she gets when she receives an invitation to an exclusive after-party, she can’t help but RSVP “yes.”


  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476749752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476749754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
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  1. As a fashion lover, I was prepared to be offended by another book intent on trivializing the fashion industry, but I was enchanted instead. She managed to evade the condescension that ended The Devil Wear Prada (the book, not the movie). Amy shows her skills as a journalist with a lot of thoughts and ideas in each paragraph. However, with those thoughts, she is extremely balanced. She is funny and truthful, giving everyone, including herself, equal comeuppance. She is biting, sardonic and sarcastic, and with all the names she drops, she never belittles her subjects. Her point of view mirrors how I feel about my son’s current Star Wars obsession. I don’t completely understand it (Who is Boba Fet again?), but if it makes you happy, I can get on board with it. Obviously, fashion and celebrity pay Amy’s bills, so if not totally sold on it, she at least can get with it and enjoy the (fashion) show.

    Disclaimer: I received a pre-release copy of book from publisher Simon and Schuster.

  2. I loved this! I read it during a beach vacation with a friend, who asked to borrow it as soon as I was done because I was laughing out loud so much. It’s a truly honest look at the fashion industry, but completely enjoyable and fascinating even if you feel like fashion isn’t your thing. 100 percent going to suggest it for my book club’s next pick!

  3. This book is a must read for anyone who likes to laugh. The insight is smart, hilarious, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Besides making me laugh, Odell made this book extremely inspiring without sounding cliché and boring. My friends loved this book too, so we’re doing a book club on it and I can’t wait!

  4. I loved this book. As a writer, Amy, somehow, is both bitingly self-deprecating and supremely self-confident. Because she doesn’t take herself or this world TOO seriously (the biggest problem with 95 percent of people in the fashion industrial complex), you always root for rather than envy her success. Too many inspired, uproariously funny segments to name here, but the Anna Wintour chapter (YIKES) as well as her encounters with a surprisingly kind Rachel Zoe and an irate Harvey Weinstein (“What do I smell like?!”) are among my favorites. This is a gifted and perceptive writer with a lot to say.

  5. Amy’s hilarious anecdotes trace her ascent from awkwardly-dressed teen to it girl, cutting through the smoke and mirrors of the fashion industry to shine a refreshing light on the ridiculousness of it all. Her cynical approach is a perfect anecdote to the every woman’s insecurities and a wonderful reminder that even media darlings are only human. It’s a must-read for style-lovers, fashion-haters, Cosmo fans, and everyone in between!

  6. I have to take what Odell’s says as truth for the most part since she is writing about stuff I only glimpse via the occasional Project Runway in the background or seeing critics go after who wore what on some red carpet. I mean I know what fashion is in the loosest sense. But Odell’s take is from the inside. No matter what the title says.

    Yes she is much lower on the totem pole than Anna Wintour (I do know who she is! but that is from watching Sixty Minutes more than anything else I have to admit). Much, much lower. And that self-realization of where she sits in the scheme of things makes this book.

    My main problem is that I did not find it that funny. Or wry. Or clever. Let alone hilarious as some people who get paid to form such opinions burbled. That is not to say that is dull and dry and lacking any charm. For the most part. Odell does have a charming voice via her writing. And she does a wonderful job of capturing some of the absurdities without seeming to bite the hand that feeds her as it were. She does like what ‘fashion’ is overall even if she also points out the warts.

    But there is simply no verve to the book. There are moments where just too much information gets piled on that the book lost momentum too many times. This might be fascinating to others. But I suspect most of those others know what kind of shoes to wear with a blue suit. Or which patterns inexplicably go together (says the reader that thinks it is daring to match a striped dress shirt with a subtly patterned tie). I was hoping for more outsider I think. Dare I say more snide look at the outrageous world of the fashion industry and why New York suddenly can be horrid to those of us that are visitors no matter how often or long we stay.Read more ›

  7. I read this book in one sitting. Odell’s wry and perceptive insights about the often-absurd world of fashion are at once entertaining, hilarious, and thought-provoking. Her sharp, self-deprecating tone and witty asides will charm the (fashionable) pants off anyone looking for a fun read. I’m not in the fashion world, and I normally stick to reading fiction for pleasure, but I was sucked in right away by this memoir. Will be recommending to my friends!

  8. Even if The Devil Wears Prada is the extent of your fashion knowledge, you’ll love this book. Amy Odell’s Tales from The Back Row is smart, funny, a must for anyone who is fashion curious. I’m not fashion savvy, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when jumping into Odell’s book, but Odell’s re-telling of her time in the back row, was more than I could have hoped. So give into your inner fashionista and read this book.

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