Tag Archives: Jonathan Walford

Currently Reading – Sixties Fashion by Jonathan Walford

One thing I’ve come to expect from books by Jonathan Walford is consistency and quality, and his latest, Sixties Fashion, From Less Is More to Youthquake does not disappoint.  Written from the fashion historian’s point of view, this is the type of book I like best.

What makes this book so great is how Walford effectively uses primary sources, especially magazine and newspaper accounts from the era, to add weight and meaning to the narrative.  It’s one thing to say that  in the mid 1960s fashions for the youthful were taking over, but it’s so much more enlightening when Walford quotes a New York Times  article from 1964 that explains the phenomena.

We are all familiar with the big names of the 1960s:  Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin, Courreges, Emilio Pucci,  Rudi Gernreich.  But Walford does not stop with the usual discussion of the familiar.  He also discusses designers who were influential, but who are not household names today.

As in Walford’s other books, the photographs are superb.  One complaint that I often have with fashion books is that the same famous photos tend to be used over and over.  But Walford uses photographs of garments from the Fashion History Museum combined with vintage fashion shoot photos and vintage ads.  The content is fresh, and the illustrations are very relevant to the text.

Another plus is the  readability of the book.  For a highly researched history, the writing is engaging and fluid.  It is fun to read.

The vintage photo is of Mary Quant, on the right, with models sporting her necktie dress.  The actual dress from the Fashion History Museum’s collection is also shown.

Here’s another example of a fashion shot along with the actual garment.  This dress is by Geoffery Beene, 1969.  Note the Midi protesters in the vintage photo at left.

Remember the granny gown of the mid to late 60s?

The book also talks about shoes and accessories, and there is a section on men’s fashions of the Sixties.

The late Sixties brought an increasing acceptance of pants for women.  It also was a time of bright and wild prints.

Modern art also influenced fashion in the Sixties.  How about those Op Art designs?

The hippie influence was important in the late 1960s and into the 70s.  Walford tells in the book how Afghani coats like the one pictured on the right became popular after John Lennon wore one to the launch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

I’ve read the book through, just to enjoy it, and now I’m going to give it a second, slower read to try and absorb all the great information.  If you are interested in how people dressed in the 1960s, this book is a must-have for your library.




Filed under Currently Reading

The Fashion History Museum

I’m happy to announce that the world now has a new museum devoted entirely to fashion, the Fashion History Museum.  Located in Galt, Ontario, Canada, it is the work of fashion historian Jonathan Walford and his partner Kenn Norman.  Jonathan is the curator of the collection, and Kenn is the museum director.  The Fashion History Museum was actually incorporated in 2004, but they have now opened in a permanent location in  Southworks, a restored historic industrial complex of 19th century limestone factory buildings.

You probably know Jonathan through his books, but he also has experience in the museum world, as he was the founding curator of the Bata Shoe Museum.  I’ve “known” him since the early days of eBay, where vintage sellers and buyers found a place to chat.  And I’ve always been in awe of his knowledge – and his vast collection.  Now it will be on view for all to appreciate.

There are plans to have rotating exhibitions throughout the three galleries that make up the museum.  Now, in gallery one is Paisley and Plaid – A Recurring Fashion.   It features clothing  ranging from 1810 through the 1990s that are printed, embroidered or woven with paisley and tartans.  Gallery two hosts Collecting Fashion for the Future: Acquisitions from the New Millenium.  Here are garments from designers such as  Jason Wu, Alexander McQueen, and Vivienne Tam.  The third gallery is devoted to accessories.  Currently showing is It’s in the Bag, an anthology of purse styles and materials.

Enjoy these highlight from the current exhibitions, and if you are in or near southern Ontario, you must put the Fashion History Museum on your list of things to see.

In the top photo: Four early dresses from gallery one Paisley and Plaid featuring (right to left) an English paisley print wool dress, c. 1848, American cotton print flounced dress, c. 1854, American blue and brown tartan silk dress, c. 1864, and an American printed wool and purple velvet dress, c. 1886

Printed wool dress by Oleg Cassini, c. 1954, and cotton tartan dress with corset hook closure by Clair McCardell, c. late 1940s – early 1950s

Right to left: View of red and black printed paisley design wool dress by Oleg Cassini, c. 1954, paisley printed silk two piece dress with culotte skirt by Norman Norell 1960, blue and red printed cotton dress and matching kerchief by Lulu, Montreal, c. 1968, and embroidered and mirror applique printed cotton caftan made in India for export, c. 1968

View of gallery two from Fashion for the Future, an exhibition of garments acquired by the museum to represent fashion since 2000. Dresses shown (left to right) include Andrew Matejny, Marchesa, Jessica Biffi, Liefsdottir, and Love-J, as well as selection of shoes by Jean Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan, Naughty Monkey, and others, under the watchful eye of vintage and antique dress forms

Another view of Fashion for the Future including dresses by (left to right)  Desigual, Steven Sprouse for Target, Roots, Takashi, and Vivienne Tam, and fascinator hats by Jacques Vert and David Dunkley

One view of Purse Anthology room featuring different styles of purses (reticules, backpacks, handbags, pocketbools) made from different materials (sea turtle, lucite, felt, etc.) by different designers (Gucci, Lucille de Paris, Willi Smith:Williwear)

To see more photos, and to read about how the museum came together, visit Jonathan’s blog.  The Fashion History Museum also has a website.

All photos and photo captions are courtesy of and copyright of the Fashion History Museum.



Filed under Museums

Currently Reading: 1950s American Fashion by Jonathan Walford

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:


Filed under Currently Reading