Dressed and Obsessed: 17 Fashion Titles To Beautify Your Collections

Breward, Christopher. The Suit: Form, Function and Style. Reaktion. May 2016. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781780235233. $27. DEC ARTS

thesuit.jpg4416Breward (cultural history, Univ. of ­Edinburgh; The Hidden Consumer) ­offers a brief but comprehensive outline of the suit’s evolution from its aesthetic conception to becoming a powerful icon of modern refinement. Donning the social, economic, and political symbols associated with the sourcing, creating, and promoting of garments, the suit has shed layers of physical reinforcement through the ages. This book details the product’s acclimation to the changing world of fashion in which construction is the union of aspiration and trust between tailor and client, mechanization allows for the collapse of hierarchy, and the working class redefines values of appearance and possibilities. Much of the text is dedicated to the suit’s adoption by particular political groups, social movements, and forms of labor. Breward touches on the avant-garde idea of deconstructing the components of clothing in search of an article’s modern identity and spurs the question of what’s next in the suit’s journey. A section on contemporary variations of the suit and technological innovations in the fabric industry could have anchored the present-day relevancy of this book. ­VERDICT This title reaffirms the suit’s enduring features, though it may be too padded with cultural history to provide much more than that. Useful for potential menswear designers but not a necessary purchase for industry professionals.— Zeying Wang, School Library Journal (ZW)

Calahan, April & Cassidy Zachary. Fashion and the Art of Pochoir: The Golden Age of Illustration in Paris. Thames & Hudson. 2015. 240p. illus. ISBN 9780500239391. $85. DEC ARTS

The beginning of the 20th century (1908–25), termed “the golden age of fashion illustration” by fashion historians Calahan and Zachary, saw the publication of a number of luxury limited-edition fashion albums with illustrations rendered through the printing process called pochoir. In pochoir, the original illustration is reproduced on paper through stenciling and then hand-colored. In the most well-known of these publications, the periodical La Gazette du Bon Ton, clothes by Paul Poiret, Charles Worth, Jeanne Paquin, and John Redfern, among others, were illustrated in imaginative vignettes by artists such as Georges Lepape, Georges Barbier, Charles Martin, and Eduardo Garcia Benito. Other volumes were created to publicize and highlight the work of Poiret. The catalogs Modes et Manières d’Aujourd’hui and Le Journal des Dames et des Modes (illustrations also by Lepape, Barbier and others) depicted clothing created purely from the artist’s imagination but captured the styles of the day. Art and fashion became one in these beautifully produced volumes. VERDICT With beautiful images, a glossary of artists and designers, and readable text, this book is recommended for anyone interested in the history of fashion illustration.—Sandra ­Rothenberg, Framingham State Univ. Lib., MA (SR)

redstarDirix, Emanuelle. Dressing the Decades: Twentieth-Century Vintage Style. Yale Univ. 2016. 224p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300215526. $30. DEC ARTS

dressingthedecades.jpg4416Fashion lecturer, curator, and writer Dirix (coauthor, Goodman Fiell’s “Definitive Sourcebook” series) writes absorbingly, accessibly, yet academically about fashions of the 20th century. In a decade-by-decade presentation, she covers the big names and popular trends (how the privations of two World Wars affected haute couture; flappers and Jazz Age influences on 1920s dresses; Dior’s “New Look”) but also champions nearly forgotten designers such as Lucy, Lady Duff, and Jeanne Margain-Lacroix, the first dressmaker to go corsetless in the 1900s. The ­author also takes a closer look at the designs of the 1930s and the 1970s, finding much to appreciate and enjoy from those decades. Her well-informed narrative is often laced with socioeconomic observations, including discussion of Hollywood’s impact on designers and vice versa, the class divisions of haute couture vs. ready-to-wear, and how various social and political movements transformed how we dress and consume fashion. The accompanying photos and illustrations (75 color, 91 black and white) are stunning and often drool-worthy. ­VERDICT This slim but complete work delivers a lot of information and is well worth the price. For costume designers, slaves to fashion, and anybody who likes to rock the retro look.—Liz French, Library Journal (LF)

Fashion Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th-Century Silhouette. Bloomsbury Visual Arts. Apr. 2016. 292p. ed. by Karen Van Godtsenhoven & others. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781474279048. $40. DEC ARTS

This accompaniment to an exhibition by the same name at Antwerp’s ModeMuseum shines a light on those designers whose work offered women an alternative to the hourglass silhouette. The authors make the argument that Cristóbal ­Balenciaga’s work in the mid-20th century provided a bridge between pioneering designers in the early decades (Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Paul Poiret) and avant-garde designers (Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Maison Martin Margiela) working at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st. Essays cover topics such as the influence of Japonism on Western fashion and the points of view of designers such as Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin, and Georgina Godley. Additional pieces by women who regularly wear the garments of the designers discussed provide perspective on how it feels to exhibit an avant-garde style and the ­reactions they provoke. ­VERDICT This photo-heavy volume will be relished by design students and enthusiasts of envelope-pushing fashion.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

redstarGeczy, Adam & Vicki Karaminas. Fashion’s Double: Representations of Fashion in Painting, Photography and Film. Bloomsbury Academic. (Dress, Body, Culture). 2015. 176p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780857857118. $120. DEC ARTS

Deceptively thin for its packed theoretical content, this book is for those who seek to understand the conception and progression of fashion as a multimode carrier of perception, thus representation in Western culture and society. The collected essays discuss fashion as a process of self-identification through the use of replicas, reflections, and past forms of painting, photography, and film. Much can be extracted from its pinpoints in accelerated history, rich with iconic references such as Lucien Vogel’s Gazette du Bon Ton, Helmut Newton’s portrayals of feminist and androgynous sex appeal, and the 2012 Hunger Games film adaptation. Artist and writer Geczy (Univ. of Sydney) offers up interpretations of fashion as a product of image and truth (not a separation), a time line continuously interrupted with revival (not repetition), and an agent of instantaneous “death” through visualization. Now that space, world, and time are compressed, mass imagery and a collective desensitization, restlessness, and boredom result. VERDICT A must-read for students of art history, fashion, photography, and film, and readers interested in the psychology of social hierarchy, media sex appeal, and gender equality.—ZW

Golbin, Pamela (text) & Yann Legendre (illus.). Couture Confessions: Twentieth-Century Fashion Icons in Their Own Words. Rizzoli Ex Libris. May 2016. 272p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780847849031. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780847849055. DEC ARTS

coutureconfessions.jpg4416Golbin (chief curator, fashions & textiles, Musée des Arts Décoratifs; Balenciaga Paris) summons the spirits of fashion’s leading stars in this experimental title. The approach works, up to a point: Golbin “interviews” 11 designers including Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Madeleine Vionnet, and Christian Dior, using primary source materials. In the case of superreclusive Christóbal ­Balenciaga, who only granted one interview during his lifetime, the author draws in other 20th-century icons, including Cecil Beaton and Diana Vreeland, to discuss him. Perhaps owing to the abundance of documentation, some come off better than others (Chanel, Dior, Paul Poiret), but ­Golbin skillfully tailors her questions to their long-ago answers. The author’s inability to follow up her questions creates some stiffness, and this is most apparent in the final chapter, which purports to be a roundtable discussion of “What is fashion?” Despite this, the book is informative and personable. The copious footnotes are helpful, but more editorializing on the author’s part would have been welcome. VERDICT The fantastic illustrations by Legendre and the designers’ signatures at the end of their chapters enhance the immersive experience of this work, which will both delight and confound scholars and followers of 20th-century designers.—LF

Gross, Michael. Focus: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers. Atria. Jul. 2016. 385p. notes. ISBN 9781476763460. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781476763484. DEC ARTS

Since the 1940s, fashion photographers have competed for the prestigious covers of such magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. At the top of their game, these notoriously ambitious players include “game changer” Richard Avedon—as well as Terry and Bob Richardson, Bert Stern, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, and Mario Testino. The ­selection of artists is based on Departures contributing editor Gross’s (House of ­Outrageous Fortune) own criteria: those “who were unavoidable, who changed the conversation…but also ones who I am drawn to and whose stories were somehow accessible.” Along with tales of famous shoots and industry backstories during the “glory days” of the genre, Gross writes of the sexual promiscuity and recreational drug use of these (mostly male) photographers in this exposé. Although the subtitle is a bit on the nose, the subject matter will be historically significant to those who are concerned with the photo artist’s role in the golden age of modern fashion photography. ­VERDICT Recommended for enthusiasts of fashion and fashion photography.—Shauna ­Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA

Kimono: The Art and Evolution of Japanese Fashion. Thames & Hudson. 2015. 320p. ed. by Anna Jackson. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500518021. $80. DEC ARTS

Over three centuries, the kimono’s basic construction has changed little, with the garment itself carrying a weight of tradition and representation that few others can claim. The rectilinear design draws focus to the article’s fabric rather than to the body shape of the wearer—not that the kimono and its wearer are independent of fashion. Myriad techniques in weaving, dyeing, printing, painting, and embroidery have embellished this style of clothing in astonishing variety, carrying messages about wearers’ social status, age, personality, and taste. Jackson (Victoria and Albert Museum) is honorary curator of the Khalili Kimono Collection, to which belong these 236 beautifully photographed kimonos. Essays by Jackson and four other scholars provide a chronological framework following the development of kimono design through the Edo, Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods. Subjects include the Japanese textile industry, gender conventions, trends popularized by Kabuki actors, sumptuary laws, political statements in fashion, and Western influences. VERDICT Over 400 illustrations make this book a visual feast, while its essays comprise a wide-ranging and valuable survey of kimono as a reflection of Japanese history and culture.—Lindsay King, Yale Univ. Libs, New Haven, CT (LK)

Meyer, Shannon. Little Black Dress: From Mourning to Night. Missouri History Museum. Apr. 2016. 160p. photos. ISBN 9781883982843. pap. $35. DEC ARTS

Accompanying a show at the Missouri History Museum, where the author is a senior curator, this cleverly named look at the little black dress (LBD) is provincial and international all at once. With a strong emphasis on the local gentry (i.e., donors) and the LBDs they wore, it has a down-home historical feel—fitting for such an exhibition and venue—but still features Paris and New York artists’ work mixed in with that of local seamstresses and designers (including Kimora Lee Simmons and Project ­Runway contestant Michael Drummond). The text is spare but engaging and the scope is broad, touching on Victorian silks and mourning wear to black maternity dresses, Fifties cocktail confections, 1970s peasant dresses, and gorgeous evening gowns from all decades. There are even a few prom and wedding dresses in black. VERDICT A charming and affectionate look at the LBD and its global importance on a microcosmic scale, this is a solid choice for history buffs and fashion lovers of all stripes.—LF

Wild, Benjamin. A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton. Thames & Hudson. 2016. 144p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780500518335. $50. DEC ARTS

From an early age, photographer Cecil Beaton (1904–80) had clothes made to his specifications, to suit his willowy figure as well as his desire to stand out in a crowd. Outlandish ensembles were one way he connected with the bright young people he befriended in the 1920s, and though his style evolved throughout his life, sartorial flair remained a major part of his identity. More than a dandy, Beaton had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and details of garments, with a particular nostalgia for the Edwardian era that informed his designs for the film My Fair Lady. Using photographs, diaries, archival records from Beaton’s tailors, items donated to museums or given to friends, and conversations with those who knew the man and his wardrobe well, fashion historian Wild analyzes Beaton’s distinctive style alongside changes in 20th-century fashion. The author has written extensively on British historical dress; in this detailed chronological account, he ties social, cultural, and psychological shifts to their sartorial manifestations. VERDICT Many books record Beaton’s sharp-eyed views of what other people wore; this one examines his own wardrobe as another legacy of the prolific photographer, designer, and writer. For fans of the man and his style.—LK

Woolton, Carol. Vogue: The Jewellery. Octopus. Apr. 2016. 304p. photos. index. ISBN 9781840916577. $125. DEC ARTS

Written by a jewelry expert and jewelry editor for British Vogue for 14 years, this is a visual celebration of jewelry featured in the magazine in photographs and illustrations. Instead of taking a chronological approach, Woolton divides sections thematically by mood. The book opens with “show-stoppers” with adornments such as extravagant diamond tiaras atop the heads of blue bloods to ornate paste stone creations. Next is “rock chic,” with images that have an edgy or rebellious feeling, then “minimalism,” in which styles are simplified. This is followed by the “exotic,” with ornamental and witty creations in forms of flora and fauna, often embellishing turbans. Lastly, images of “classic” jewelry depict designs such as a simple strand of pearls, an heirloom brooch, and diamond earrings and a bracelet worn by Grace Kelly. Each item is accompanied by thoughtful commentary that illuminates a cultural, social, or historical moment or an aesthetic. VERDICT Published in a lavish slipcase and binding, this is for jewelry devotees who desire an elaborate volume dedicated to this fashion form.—SR

Short Takes

Corbett, Patricia & others. Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron: My Style Is My Signature. Thames & Hudson. 2016. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500517901. $85. DEC ARTS

belperron.jpg4416Amazing pieces from Suzanne Belperron, the only woman to be considered a 20th-century master jeweler, are presented by experts and those who seek to relaunch her brand. From art-deco creations in the 1930s, and to her singular sensual forms of later years, Belperron’s jewelry attracted such high-profile patrons as Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, Doris Duke, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean Cocteau, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and ­Lauren Bacall. Photos of those collectors and others, including the designer herself, as well as Belperron’s sketches, and archival photos of the businesses, enhance this volume, as does the nearly free-verse ­introduction by Karl  Lagerfeld.—LF

De La Hoz, Cindy. Audrey and Givenchy: A Fashion Love Affair. Running Pr. Apr. 2016. 176p. photos. ISBN 9780762460175. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780762460182. DEC ARTS

Film and fashion buff De La Hoz (Bogie & Bacall; Lucy at the Movies) treads familiar ground in a coffee-table book for small tables. This compact title chronicles the 40-year “fashion romance” between French designer Hubert de Givenchy (b. 1927) and his muse, film icon Audrey Hepburn (1929–93), covering the high points (perhaps the most famous LBD in movies, the black sheath Hepburn wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the fashion-forward wedding dress in Funny Face), the lesser-known film collaborations, and the offscreen appearances by tireless charity campaigner Hepburn. While not a necessary purchase, this one is for Hepburn fans and those who can’t justify the high price tag of Givenchy’s paean to his partner in style, To Audrey with Love.—LF

Gucci, Patricia with Wendy Holden. In the Name of Gucci. Crown Archetype. May 2016. 320p. photos. ISBN 9780804138932. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780804138949. MEMOIR

Aldo Gucci’s daughter writes of the passion between her parents: the wealthy head of a luxury goods purveyor and his longtime companion and mistress, who began working as his secretary. Gucci conveys the pain—and pleasures—of her mother’s and her shadowy existence, settles a few scores with her half siblings, and writes movingly of coming to terms with both her parents and herself.—LF

McClendon, Emma. Denim: Fashion’s Frontier. Yale Univ. 2016. 212p. photos. ISBN 9780300219142. $50. DEC ARTS

This catalog accompanying a spring exhibition at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) draws exclusively from the school’s permanent collection of denim (“the most worn textile on the planet”) pieces. The text and extensive photos present denim’s transition from rough work clothing of the 1800s to prized (and pricey) couture pieces, with nods along the way to Hollywood cool and ultimate symbol of teen rebellion. It’s all here: Brooke Shields in her Calvins; sportswear by Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin; homemade overalls worn by gold miners; sustainably sourced couture; acid- and stone-wash 1980s jeans; Ralph Lauren’s three-piece suit circa 2015; and much more.—LF

eastend.jpg4416Sock Club of London. Socks: The Rule Book; 10 Essential Rules for the Wearing and Appreciation of Men’s Hosiery. Mitchell Beazley: Octopus. Apr. 2016. 112p. illus. index. ISBN 9781784721336. $12.99.

The No. 1 rule of Sock Club is: socks must be worn. This fun compendium of sock FAQs and “fibres” from Sock Club London founding members 001 and 002 continues through nine more rules of men’s hosiery, using bright, cheerful illustrations, sprightly, tongue-in-cheek text, tips on care, wearing, mixing and matching of socks, a glossary of terms, and a source list of the fabulous footwear ­pictured. It’ll sock it to you for sure.—LF

Webb, Anthony. East End Fashionistas. Thames & Hudson. 2016. 272p. photos. ISBN 9780500292136. pap. $24.95. DEC ARTS

A colorful and entertaining stroll down the alleys and streets of London’s East End, a multicultural neighborhood where self-expression appears to be a contact sport. More than 290 images by creative photographer/artist Webb (“StyleCity” series) capture the spirit and energy of this cutting-edge area and its residents. Quotes from street graffiti and style icons such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen enhance the visual experience.—LF

This article was published in Library Journal's April 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.