I just finished reading The Collection by Gioia Diliberto. The book tells the story of a young girl from provincial France who goes to Paris to work as a seamstress for Chanel. It's an easy read (it took me about a day to finish the 266-page book), and it helps acquaint you with both the process of making couture and the famous couturiers of the early twentieth century.
In detail, Diliberto describes the meticulous, challenging, and time-consuming work that goes into creating a couture garment: unlike other couturiers, in Chanel's workshop, every stitch is literally hand sewn. The author also fleshes out the personality of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (or as the narrator refers to her, "Mademoiselle"), painting her as a brilliant but mercurial woman who fires workers when they become too valuable because she doesn't want to become too dependent on anyone.
It isn't a heavy-duty book, but it's definitely worth a read if you don't know much about French couture or the great couturiers of yesteryear. $16.50 at Amazon.com.