Currently Reading: Vintage Fashion Knitwear

The book above, Vintage Fashion Knitwear: Collecting and Wearing Designer Classics, miraculously appeared in my mailbox a few days ago.  I was pretty sure I had not ordered it; my memory is not what it used to be, but still I’d have remembered  something like ordering a book from the UK.  There was no note, no invoice.  So I sat down to look through it and there it was – a full page photo of a Helen Bond Carruthers sweater from my collection.

Suddenly it came to me.  I’d been contacted some time ago about using photos I’d posted here of this sweater, to be used in an up-coming book on knitwear.  I get these requests from time to time, and I always agree, with the understanding that along with the proper credit, I get a copy of the book.

In this case, I really am glad that I got the free copy, because it’s not likely I’d have bought this one unless I ran across it in an actual bookstore.  And the reason is because the title of the book is no indication of what the actual contents are.  Regardless of the title, this is not a collector’s guide, but rather, is a history of 20th century knitwear.

I have nothing against collector’s guides, and in fact I have VFG friends who have written some very excellent ones.  But collector’s guides are geared toward beginning collectors, and I’ve been buying vintage clothing since the 1970s.  What I look for in a book is not how to buy or how to collect.  I’m wanting historic and design information.  Interestingly, that is exactly what this book delivers.

In the past few years there have been quite a few books written on specific types of garments.  There are great books on shoes and hats, on sportswear and couture.  And I love books like this, written by experts who know their topic and are eager to share what they have learned through years of collecting and research.

Though I have not finished reading this one, there are several things I really like about it.  First, it has a variety of illustrations that include vintage photos, period advertisements and other print media, and modern photographs of actual garments.  It really helps to see how the garments were portrayed during the period, but also how the actual garments look.

I also like the fact that the book is arranged chronologically.  To me, this is a no-brainer, but I have quite a few books on clothing that are arranged by topic, rather than by era.  A shoe book might be arranged in chapters on sandals, pumps, boots, and slippers, with these types being from all eras.

Another big plus is that there are lots of label photos, something that can be very useful in dating garments.

There is a bit of technical knitting language used, and I’ve run across several terms and processes with which I’m not familiar.  It really seems to be a case of too much information, as not understanding how the knit object was created does not take much from the enjoyment of learning about the garment itself.

Posted by Amanda in Vermont:

First – Do you still have that sweater (swoon) and … second – You sold me on the book. Interestingly – on Amazon – the new copies are $6 less than the lowest used copy!

Thursday, October 7th 2010 @ 4:24 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Yes, I do still have the sweater. It’s too pretty to ever think about selling!I have the UK version, but I assume the books are pretty much the same. That is an excellent price!

Thursday, October 7th 2010 @ 5:01 AM

Posted by Ali B.:

Sounds like a great book! I’m a big Kaffe Fassett fan, so even a foreword by him is a selling point. Are the pictures scanned from the book or ones that you took of your sweater?

Thursday, October 7th 2010 @ 9:32 AM

Posted by Sarsaparilla:

What a wonderful sweater – I’m so glad you haven’t sold it! And how fun it must be to see it highlighted in a book! This looks like a book I would enjoy too. Thanks for the review.
– Susan

Thursday, October 7th 2010 @ 9:02 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

These photos are not the exact same ones that are in the book, but they are very similar. I had to retake the shots in a high resolution for the book. And even though the photos in the book are mine, I did not ask for permission to reprint the page, so I took the easy way and posted the originals!

Friday, October 8th 2010 @ 8:59 AM

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Filed under Currently Reading, Designers, Vintage Clothing

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