Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: 20th Century Fashion, by John Peacock

20th Century Fashion, by John Peacock. Preface by Christian Lacroix.
While riffling through the Kearny Library's shelves one day, I found this incredible little jewel. I've scoured the costume/fashion history shelves for years, but this book only showed up now (divine intervention, perhaps?).

This book was a total charm to read, so much so that I couldn't resist buying my own used copy (rather inexpensive as the book was published in the 1990s). Regardless of how fanciful some of the illustrations are, they really are representative of the styles, colors, and silhouettes of 20th century fashion. In fact, I wish there were companion books: 19th century fashion, 18th, 17th, 16th......

The illustrations are not only plentiful but beautiful, and impossibly detailed. Smocking was clear, patterned fabrics didn't look like stained blobs, and seamlines were all emphasized, including darts. Most, if not all, illustrations seem to be taken from period sources, such as fashion plates or actual garments. The illustrations appear to be plausible representations of the height of fashion; not really much dramatic exaggeration here.

The book is very well organized. After a few pages of illustrations, there are descriptions for every single item in every illustration--down to the gloves and shoes. I couldn't put it in better words, so here is the description of the book from the author:

"This collection is divided into nine parts, each representing a decade. Each part begins with the work of leading couturiers (though since the 1960s it would perhaps be more accurate to describe these as 'designers') and continues with the sections on Underwear, Leisure Wear, Day Wear, Evening Wear, Bridal Wear and Accessories. . . An annotated chart at the end of the book depicts the fashionable outline in silhouette, and notes the principal changes in shape, length, color, fabric, accessories, etc., for each five-year period. There is also a brief account of the working lives of those couturiers whose garments I have illustrated as well as a select bibliography."

Couture Wear 1900-1903
1. Vernon 1900. Pink linen tailored sit with long fitted jacket; open side vents trimmed with silk braid and silk-covered buttons to match the detail on the slim fitted sleeves, bodice, mock waistcoat, side panels and hem of the flared skirt. Fine cream silk blouse with high stand collar and waterfall jabot. Cream straw hat with brim turned up at front and back and trimmed with stiffened silk ribbon and a silk posy. White kid gloves.
2. Maison Rouff 1901. Pale green silk-velvet afternoon dress, fitted bodice with deep waistband, three-quarter-length sleeves gathered into narrow fur cuffs matching the asymmetric trimming on bodice and flared skirt. Mock blouse of striped silk with high stand collar. Heavy boldly patterned lace covering one shoulder, forming fitted under-sleeves and trimming the skirt. Straw hat with brim turned up at each side, decorated with large green silk-taffeta bow and green curled ostrich feathers.

Underwear 1900-1904
Wow, look at those magenta silk stockings! And all the corsets and brassieres....

Leisure Wear 1900-1904
1904. Heavy-rib cotton corset, heavily boned, whalebone front busk, back lacing and front fastening, suspenders covered with ruched ribbon. Waist-length nainsook camisole trimmed with broderie anglaise and threaded ribbon.
1900. Turquoise wool day dress, cross-over bodice trimmed with fine looped braid to match hem of three-quarter-length sleeves and hem of flared skirt, smocked shoulder detail, finely tucked false front with high stand collar, lace trimming to match tight under sleeves, shaped belt with side button fastening. Hair dressed away from face over pads, large high bun.
Accessories 1990-1904
Evening Wear 1905-1909
Evening Wear 1910-1914
Accessories 1910-1914
WOW, what a muff and scarf combination! That's a whole lot of fluff! And those adorable shoes...drool!

1915. White nainsook petticoat with high waistline, cross-over bodice, low neckline; bodice and hem of the flared and frilled skirt decorate with diamond-shaped insertions of machine-made lace. Black silk stockings. Velvet house shoes.
Chanel 1920, Worth 1923
Evening Wear 1920-1924
Bridal Wear 1920-1924
Leisure Wear 1925-1929
Couture Wear 1930-1934
I'm so pleased that they included all of the different and unique styles of the backs of dresses in the 1930s!

Evening Wear 1930-1934

Day Wear 1937-1939
Leisure Wear 1940-1944
Couture Wear 1945-1949
Christian Dior 1954. Black wool dress, off-the-shoulder neckline, short cap sleeves, upper bodice gathered from high waist seam, lower bodice fitted from under bust to high hip-level, gathered panelled mid-calf-length sirt worn over stiffened petticoats. Small pillbox hat. Long black suede gloves, matching shoes with cut-away sides and high heels.
1953. Collarless white cotton tennis top, asymmetric buttoned opening, wide cap sleeves split on edge of shoulder seam, short pleated skirt in matching fabric.
1939. Pink silk brassiere, narrow ribbon shoulder straps, embroidered detail between bust cups, back hook and bar fastening. Pink sikl camiknickers, elasticized waistline, side button fastening on embroidered shaped yoke, wide flared knicker legs edged with fine machine-made lace.
Bridal Wear 1980-1984...Princess Diana's Famous Dress

1 comment:

  1. That does look like a treasure - thank you for sharing such a wide swath of 20th-c gorgeousness.