Tag Archives: fashion book

Currently Reading – Fashion: The Definitive Visual Guide

Since no one protested in my last post about more book reviews, here’s the latest one that’s occupying my time. I bought this book after seeing it on Instagram. I usually don’t buy survey of fashion history books because I already have quite a few, but this one seemed to have great illustrations, and it also included fashion all the way back to ancient times.

To be honest, this is not a curl up by the fire on a chilly day type of book. It’s huge and heavy and that makes it a bit hard to curl with. But it is just full of details and pictures, which makes this a great book to pick up when one has a few minutes to sit and absorb a few fashion history details.

The book is structured chronically, and  the authors point out details that characterize each garment. This concept is not new. and long-time fashion history students may remember the John Peacock Fashion Sourcebook from the 1990s. Still, it works to draw the reader’s attention to what is important. I do little mini-lessons on Instagram using this technique and have found that it’s quite popular.

Another nice feature of the book are the sidebars that give extra information.

The timeline format makes changes in fashion easy to see. I tried the effectiveness of this out on my husband, who after a few minutes study was able to correctly identify dresses from 1870 – 1895. He was quite proud of himself.

One of the things I really like about the book is the emphasis on sporting attire. There are several pages like this one, showing both men’s and women’s sportswear.

So much can be learned just from examining photos of women dressed for various activities, especially with the commentary.

One of my biggest concerns about books of this type is that through the 1960s or early 70s the clothes shown seem to be from an upper class wardrobe, but at the same time, they look like what people actually wore. But after the mid-seventies, there’s much more emphasis on designer fashion. While the outfits above from the 1970s are interesting, they are more high style than what actually was worn by most women.

Yes, these styles filtered down, and many women would have worn a version of the Mary Quant sweater suit above, but it’s just misleading as I think I’m right in assuming that people who were not there would see these dresses as what was typically worn.

A better example is that there are full pages of the work of Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garcons, and Alexander McQueen, but no mention that I could find of designer jeans, and indeed, very few mentions of jeans at all.

One section I found interesting was this one on the influence of “vintage” on fashion. It wasn’t so much about wearing fashion, as it was about fashion having a “vintage” look. It’s no wonder that so many people don’t realize that vintage clothes are actually old!

The book has several nice timelines in the reference part of the book, along with a fairly comprehensive glossary.

I assume it has to do with the aesthetics of the look, but it bothered me that the photo credits are stuck in the back of the book, in tiny print. Many of them are from Getty or Corbus, and don’t have a lot of information about the image, including dates.

Still, this is an interesting overview of fashion history. It’s very readable, and can be taken in by small doses. The illustrations are excellent, and engaging. I think it would make a great introduction to fashion history for teens. I know my sixteen-year-old self would have loved it.

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Currently Reading – Stitches in Time by Lucy Adlington

Looking back at my post archives, I haven’t written a book review since April. It’s not that I’m not reading. Last year I read almost sixty books, half of which were fashion or textile related. I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to posting, to be honest. The current state of affairs in the world have zapped my motivation, but I’ve vowed to try harder to share the wonderful things that I run across.

And to start off, I want to tell you about Stitches in Time. Published in 2015, I had seen the book online, but didn’t feel the urge to buy it. The subtitle, The Story of the Clothes We Wear, reminded me too much of that book from a few years ago where people were interviewed about their clothes. But on a whim a few weeks ago, I put it in my cart. When I received it I was pleased to see that there were over 400 pages, a long bibliography, an index, and even footnotes!

The book is divided into chapters that take on one particular aspect of clothing. There are chapters on pants and coats and undergarments and pockets (and many more). Each chapter delves deep into the history of the garment, for both men’s and women’s clothing. I love that Adlington points out expressions that have made their way into English, things like boot licking.

As someone who knows a bit about fashion history, I pretty much don’t enjoy books that are a fashion overview. But that is not what Stitches in Time is. It’s a group of histories of garments, and it is engaging and interesting. If you know someone who thinks fashion is frivolous, give them this book.

The book is rich in text, but low in illustrations. The illustrations are small and there’s not one for every concept introduced in the text. Personally, I’d much rather have it this way. Isn’t that what Google is for? Read the book with a computer or other device nearby so you can look up what you can’t quite visualize.

There is a small section of color illustrations, but I found them to be of little use. They weren’t referenced in the text so you just have to take them as they are.

Another small consideration is that Adlington is British, and the book is written from that point of view. I know that when it comes to certain objects, the history within the US can be different from that in Britain, Europe, or Australia. Adlington addresses this when it is appropriate, but a reader outside of Britain needs to remember this is a UK point of view.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s very inexpensive, and is a good one to read on Kindle.

And now a question for readers. Do you want more book reviews?

 

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