26 December 2007

Shannon Tested, Zombie Approved: Modern Fashion in Detail

One of my favourite posts to read on other peoples' blogs are the ones in which book suggestions are made. I absolutely adore a good book - be it fiction, historical, biographical, educational..., heck, I love them all. One of the requirements for the home my husband & I hope to build in the near future is a library. The thought of shelves packed floor to ceiling with books, a roaring fire, two overstuffed chairs and a shared ottoman sounds like my version of heaven.

So, I figured I would start to incorporate book reviews into my regular blog post schedule. I enjoy finding about about new books and books that are new to me. I plan on focusing most of my reviews on sewing and fashion books. So, without further ado...

Modern Fashion in Detail
By Claire Wilcox & Valerie Mendes
Photographs by Richard Davis
Line Drawings by Leonie Davis
The Overlook Press (1991)

This book is one of my favourites and I have paged through it more times than I can count. I reach for it again and again when I am in need of some sewing or design inspiration. Unlike other books of this genre, this book is different in a very spectacular way. All the photographs of the garments are taken in extreme close up, focusing in on a particular sublime detail, rather than on the garment as a whole. This allows the reader to get up close and personal with the intimate details of a couture piece. The result is a breathtaking view of the world of fashion in a new way and is a must have for anyone interested in textiles and fashion. It is chock full of exceptional photos of clothing from over 40 designers, including styles from every decade of the 20th century. Other fashion books that I own show the entire garment in a long shot, which is wonderful to get the "impression" made by the entire ensemble, but often the tiny details are lost. It is with this book that I became a true believer in the old adage, "god is in the details."

The book begins with a short foreword that explains the focus of the book. We are invited to marvel at the time and skill required to make unique quality clothing - from the workrooms of skilled seamstresses and embroiderers of the early 1900s to the ateliers of today's couture workshops. The collection presented here is a portion of that obtained by the Victoria & Albert Museum, which contains works of the world's premier fashion designers. The acquisition policy of the museum is two-fold. First, the core of the collection consists of pieces created by internationally known couturiers - the garments presented are examples of each designer's unique vision, executed exquisitely in lush fabrics and embellishments by master craftspeople. Second, other pieces are worthy of study due to their impact on the fashion scene, rather than their construction details - clothing that was influenced by "street style" or pop culture.

The chapters in the book are organized nicely by theme:
  • seams
  • gathers, tucks & pleats
  • collars, cuffs & pockets
  • buttons
  • bows
  • beads & sequins
  • applied decoration
This provides focus to the book and allows the reader to easily skip to a section of particular interest. Within in each section there are eight to seventeen examples of each theme. Each entry consists of a close up photo of an important detail in the garment, line drawings (usually front & back) and a write up. The photos range in size from a quarter of a page to a two page spread, with each photo taking the viewer in closer to the garment than could ever be hoped for during a visit to the V & A museum. The full length line drawings are a special treat for the home sewer, as it makes "borrowing" an idea all the easier! The write up that accompanies each photo includes a description of the garment, the fabric and embellishment used, the name of the designer, a note on what makes the piece special, a date and the owner (if applicable).

The designers included in this book run the gamut, from the traditional to the outrageous. Listed below are a few highlights:
  • Cristobal Balenciaga
  • Pierre Balmain
  • Pierre Cardin
  • Coco Chanel
  • Christian Dior
  • Mariano Fortuny
  • John Galliano
  • Hubert de Givenchy
  • Madame Gres
  • Christain Lacroix
  • Mainbocher
  • Jean Muir
  • Yves Saint Laurent
  • Elsa Sciaparelli
  • Emanuel Ungaro
  • Madeline Vionnet
  • Vivienne Westwood
The garments presented are diverse and awe-inspiring. Whether you're looking for a brief retrospective of 20th century fashion or just some amazing eye candy, I cannot recommend this book highly enough!


sisidaboom said...

This is wonderful. Have spent hours and hours at the V&A and the outline of the book brings back memories. Shall order it immediately. Clever girl.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

Thanks for a great review! *sigh* One more book to add to the list...one day my children are going to find me buried under piles of books...instead of fabric! *LOL*

Summerset said...

Alright. I just got an Amazon gift card for Christmas. You *know* where I'm clicking next!

Vicki said...

Thanks for the review. It sounds wonderful....and the library even better!

Miasews said...

When my DH and I bought our house 7years ago, my first renovation was to build a library into what would normally be the "formal living room". Since I am far from "formal" it has worked very well for this bookworm. I hope you will enjoy your future library (really, in my opinion, just any unused room with lots and lots of bookshelves and comfy chairs.)

Anonymous said...

I bought my copy nearly 6 years ago and still love it. I was inspired immediately when I saw The Bird’s Wing dress by Anthony Price and did make my version of this dress http://thesewingdivas.wordpress.com/2006/07/04/knock-off-dress/

Linda L said...

OOOHHHH! I share your idea of a library. I have so many books and not enough shelves. Your fashion book sounds very interesting. I may have to add this one to my list of potential books for future reading.

Tany said...

Shannon, I'm ordering this book right now! Thank you so much for this fantastic review!