Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Couple More Books on Clothing

I thought I'd briefly share with you a couple of other sewing/costume related gifts I received over Christmas. Firstly...

'Costume from 1500 to the Present Day'
I asked for this one and I must admit was very surprised at the size of it on opening as I have a couple of other Cally Blackman books and they are big thick reference books. However I have to say I think the size of it is a huge plus point. Learning about the history of costume can be a hugely daunting task particularly when starting out as there is simply so much ground to cover and so much depth to go into. I had ploughed through this one by New Year and it has really all sunk in and stuck because it simply spells out what you need to know, you don't have to dig out the important facts and it leaves you feeling fairly confident about all periods. Obviously don't expect to become an expert on any one thing but there are some great little nuggets of information in there.

First part of the 18th Century chapter

The prose combines in an effective way descriptions of garments and shapes of the period along with descriptions of what life was like at the time as well as political and social changes that were happening and how this all affected the way people dressed. One of the aspects of costume I find most fascinating is the use of clothing to convey meaning, wealth and social status and there are some really interesting facts on this line amongst the text. The pictures are well chosen to illustrate the details which are highlighted, including photographs of restored or imitation garments of the period as well as illustrations and reference from the actual period mainly in painting form. The combination of all three of these resources gives a great overall insight.

'Vintage Fashion Sourcebook - Key Looks and Labels and Where to Find Them'

This second book is another concise record of the features of historical dress but this time focusing on more recent fashions. It includes lots of colour pictures and has a layout more similar to a magazine with short blocks of text dotted about rather than continuous prose so it is easy to digest and remember. This also makes it great as a quick reference book. The colourful layout and choice of photos (again a combination of exhibit photos, illustrations and images from the time) has got me really excited about vintage fashion again and I can't wait to go for a rummage in some vintage stores and get making some of my Nan's patterns. (There has been a slight hold up on both of these things recently due to the imminent house move but there is a trip to Walthamstow Market happening imminently).

'Key Looks of the Decade'

The book is divided into sections by decade, from the 1920s to 1980s. (A bit of a tangent but I wonder when people will start including the 90s or even 00s in the bracket of vintage fashion?) Each section begins with a brief summary of key looks and also what was happening in the world that influenced changes in fashion. Then comes a brilliant double page titled 'Key Looks of the Decade'. A collage of images and facts drawing together important things to consider about the looks of the era. For example patterns, shapes, fabrics and design influences. The chapter then ends with a more detailed article focusing on one aspect of fashion at that time, for example silhouettes, decoration, daywear or evening wear. These sections are very interesting reading, getting into a good level of depth. The one thing I would say about the book, from a costume point of view, is that it's very fashion orientated so not hugely useful when costuming real characters as only a very small percentage of people would wander around in the latest fashions. But then it is called the 'Vintage Fashion Sourcebook' so that's kind of pointed out by the title and can't be cited as a negative!


There's a brief shopping guide at the end of the book which I must say I didn't find particularly useful but then the book is distributed world wide so it must be quite hard to guide people through the vintage stores of many different countries. There is a very useful, if brief, breakdown of the biggest collections and stores in different countries and also a glossary of designers which would be very useful to a keen vintage collector.


All in all I'd say this book is great when used as a reference for the key features and popular designers of a decade or for inspiration when putting together a look but not particularly useful as a guide of where to find them as advertised on the front.

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