If you are a collector of books on fashion history, chances are you already own one of Jonathan Walford’s books. While those books, especially Forties Fashion and The Seductive Shoe, were large and comprehensive, the little book is totally different.
It is published by Shire Books, which is a UK publisher of small guides to historical and collecting subjects. They have only recently begun publishing books on topics that pertain specifically to America. Spend some time on their website, looking at all the fashion and textile topics.
For such a small book – there are only 64 pages – Walford packs in a lot of information. So much of fashion history is written about the famous names, and when the emphasis is on American fashion, that usually means New York designers. But here Walford gives a clear picture of how so much of the fashions being created in the US in the 1950s came from places like St. Louis and Honolulu.
And while he does profile the big names in New York and California fashion like Norman Norell and Claire McCardell and Adrian, he also tells about the makers of clothes that were more likely to have been bought by the average middle-class fashion consumer. He tells about companies like Swirl and Jerry Gilden and Koret of California. The result is a broad view of a vast and varied fashion landscape.
The illustrations are a combination of vintage advertising and modern photos of vintage clothing primarily from the Fashion History Museum of Cambridge, Ontario. It’s a good mix that keeps the reader engaged in the content. To me, this type of illustrating is a real strength. So many fashion history books use vintage photos which are, for the most part, editorial photos from fashion magazines. After a while, you start to see the same photos duplicated in various publications. I like fresh content.
Okay, full disclosure, Jonathan is my friend. That does not mean I’m only saying nice things about the book for that reason. Jonathan will be the first person to tell you that if I did not like the book I’d have found a left-handed way to subtly get across my message!
No the truth is, you need to add this one to your library, and not just because my name is in it: