Tag Archives: books

The Vintage Traveler Annual Giveaway

It’s Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah, and I wish all my readers a peaceful holiday season.  To celebrate, I’ve got two books to giveaway, Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer, and Modern Fashion in Detail, by Claire Wilcox and Valerie Mendes.  Both are duplicates from my library, and both are excellent.

Claire Shaeffer is well-known as a sewing teacher and Chanel expert, but she has also studied other couturiers techniques extensively.  And while the book is aimed at people who sew, anyone interested in couture will love this book.

Modern Fashion in Detail really should be titled 20th Century Fashion, as it covers the work of designers from Lucille to Christian Lacroix.  It’s a fascinating look at the details.

To enter, just leave a comment telling which book (or even both of them) you would love to own.  I’ll ship worldwide so the drawing is open to all.  I’ll pick the winners on New Years Day.

I want to thank all of you who have supported my research and collecting with your readership and comments.  It is truly delightful having a wonderful group of textile and fashion history lovers who are willing to help me solve my little mysteries and who give encouragement.  I wish you all peace.


Filed under Viewpoint

On Books, Fame, and Other Things


I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, mainly because the summer heat makes it hard to be motivated to do much else.  I’ve reread some old favorites, gotten serious about some new books in my long reading queue, thumbed through some magazines, and have even read a bit on the internet.  I love to read.

When I taught ten- and eleven-year-olds, one of the most common questions I got from parents was, “How do I get him/her to read?”  Then they would go on about how they had read to the child as a baby and toddler and how there was a room full of books at the kid’s disposal, but the kid refused to pick them up.  I’d let them talk, but eventually we’d get around to the subject of role models.  And what would come out ninety percent of the time was that the child never saw an adult in the house reading for pleasure.  The truth is, kids like to copy adult behavior.

Both of my parents were readers, especially my mother.  Even though she had four kids, she kept a very efficient house, and usually had all her work finished by noon.  The afternoons were for reading.  She’d shoo us out of the house and then pick up her book.  On hot summer days I’d take a book of my own, climb my favorite tree, get comfortable on a big limb, and get lost in my reading.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a public service announcement for reading, but there is a lesson in the story.  All my siblings are avid readers.

But getting back to original thought, I have been reading a lot, so expect more book reviews in the coming days.  Reader Maya asked if I got compensated by book publishers because I was making her buy lots of books.  I do occasionally get a free book for review, and I get free previews from a review service, but I buy 95% of the books I review.  And, no, I don’t get any money for reviews, nor would I take it.  As photographer Bill Cunningham famously says, “If you don’t take their money they can’t tell you what to say.”

The sad truth is that when someone gets something “free” they tend to feel obligated to the giver, and so the review is tempered somewhat.  A big shift occurred in fashion blogging after businesses started showering bloggers with gifts.  It’s hard to write bad things about a $300 handbag that was given to you.  So, if I’m given a book that I don’t like, I contact the publisher and offer to send it back.  I will do a less than positive review on an free e-book though.  I guess I don’t see the impersonal electronic transfer of a book as being a gift.

Even if I hate a book, I don’t like writing a bad review.  I know how much work goes into writing and how personal criticism can seem.  It is especially hard when I sort of know the writer through online interactions.  Right now I’ve been grappling with a review of a book I really wanted to love, but the truth is that the author just does not fulfill the promise of the topic.  And I have just about decided that editing is a lost art.  The book’s editor really let this author down.

Since I’m rambling on today, I have also had the idea of fame on my mind, and why it is that humans seem to be so obsessed with celebrities.  I usually don’t concern myself with the comings and goings of celebrities, but a post on the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum in London) Instagram irked me to the point that I unfollowed their account.  The offending photo was a picture of an unsmiling Kayne West standing beneath a quote at the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A.

The caption on the photo merely stated that Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian paid a special visit to see Savage Beauty.  But a quick leap to Kardashian’s account reveals that it was a #SupriseDateNight in an #AfterHoursVisit in a photo of an exhibition of which the public is not allowed to take photos.  I really have no opinion on the Wests, but this sort of flaunting their privilege is just tacky.  And to think the V&A not only participated, but publicized it shows just how powerful we think one image of a celebrity is.  All I can say is I hope Mr. West richly compensated the museum for his after hours tour, and that the V&A got more out of it than two Instagram photos.

So, what’s your beef this week?  Post away, but remember to be kind (sort of).




Filed under Viewpoint

Developing a Fashion Book Collection

You might have guessed that I’m a huge lover of books.  I have a fashion library of over 200 books, and I’m constantly looking for more.  The truth is that I would have even more than 200, but unless I find a book to be useful to me, or of particular interest, I will pass it on to someone who might need it.  And I’ve even had a few that were so bad that I recycled them rather than donated.

So, how do you know how to invest in books on fashion history?  A lot of the answer depends on what your needs are, and what direction you are headed with learning about fashion.

1.  If you are  a beginning vintage fashion collector, or if you have just discovered old clothing and you want to learn more, you should start with a collector’s book.  By that I mean a book that is geared toward buying and wearing vintage clothes, rather than a book on the history of fashion.   This type of book has suggestions on where to find vintage clothing and usually comes with a concise overview of fashion history.  When I first started buying vintage I purchased every book of this type that I could find, and I learned a lot from them.  But the truth is, most of them say pretty much the same things, so start with one and then if you want more, go to the library and see what they have to offer.

The only book of this sort that I still own is the one pictured above, Tracy Tolkien’s Dressing Up Vintage.  It’s a good beginner’s book.  Others I can recommend are Melody Fortier’s Little Guide to Shopping Vintage and Christa Weil’s Secondhand Chic.  Weil has also written It’s Vintage, Darling, but it is available only in the UK.

2.  Get a good fashion encyclopedia.  Don’t think World Book;  these are more like dictionaries, but contain fashion terms, information about fashion eras and small biographies of designers.  They are very useful for a quick look-up of fashion terms, and they can be surprisingly full of details.

Just be careful.  Know who the author or editor is before buying.  I say this because the two books above are really the same (or nearly the same) book, written by the same person.  And you also need to make sure the the person writing the encyclopedia you want has good fashion credentials.

3.  Get a good history over-view.   No one book is going to have it all, but a good place to start is with a chronological history.  If you are in the US, then New York Fashion is really a must have if you want to learn how the fashion business in the US developed.  If you are not in the US, then your choice might be completely different.  Call your local fashion college and ask what book they use to teach fashion history.

An old standard in this area is James Laver’s Costume & Fashion, though it has fallen out of favor in recent years.  A new edition is expected this summer, with an up-date by Amy de la Haye.

4.   Narrow your focus.  There are so many books on fashion history that I really don’t think it is possible to have and read them all, and truthfully, would that even be to your benefit?  My clothing collection is based on sportswear, and so I’m much more likely to buy a book on sports clothing than on ball gowns.  I might not be interested in a book on antique Chinese silks, but I’ll spend money for a book on Harris Tweed.

5.  Look to the past.  Some of the best information about fashion in the 1940s comes from books written during the 1940s.   Find out who the fashion experts of the past were and scour ebay and etsy for their work.  If you are interested in clothing details from a particular era, then look for a sewing guide written during that time period.

6.  Invest in books that focus on your favorite designers.  Every time there is a blockbuster exhibition featuring a designer, there is a blockbuster book to match.  These are usually full of photos and details about that designer’s work.  The downside is that they are expensive.  Buy books that are about the designers you love best.

7.  It’s not just about the frocks.  Fashion includes many things, from the head to the toes.  Often accessories are not talked about much in regular fashion history books, so be sure to seek out a few books to fill in the gaps.  Jonathan Walford’s The Seductive Shoe is, in my opinion, the best book on the history of the shoe that you’ll find.  For an excellent book on hats, get Susan Langley’s Vintage Hats and Bonnets, 1770-1970.

8.  Consider a few “readers.”  Remember how when you were in elementary school, you had a reader in which there were all kinds of stories, all different, but based on a common theme?  Well, the reader for fashion lover exists.  These make for good bedtime reading.

9.  Allow a little beauty for beauty’s sake into your collection.   Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century is not, as the title might suggest, a comprehensive look at the history of fashion.  It is instead a look inside of the stunning collection the the Kyoto Costume Institute.  It is 700 pages of fashion heaven!

10.  If you are a museum lover and you are in the US, then you must have Clothing and Textile Collections in the United States.  It is a state-by-state listing of museums and institutions that have clothing collections that are open to the public.  And while some states are covered better than others, I’ve found it to be indispensable in trip planning.

I’ve written reviews on some of these books and on others at my website, Fuzzylizzie.com.  And feel free to share your own fashion book favorites in the comments.


Filed under Collecting, Viewpoint