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Posts Tagged ‘fashion books’

One of the assignments in the fashion history class I recently completed was to find historical fashion references in current fashion. In magazines I looked for examples covering ancient clothing to the 20th century and matched with historical images from books, plus I had to write a comment.

I hopped right on it and started looking when the class began in January and it took me pretty much the whole semester. It wasn’t something you could get done in one sitting (I think that some of the other students might have tried). It was old-school cut and paste and I really had fun with it.

I’m going to share my findings with ODFL readers over the next weeks. First up is the Schenti:

FH1

Tune in again next week.

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In this French Court painting (c 1582), the ladies are wearing farthingale under their gowns to get that desired wheel shape. The men are sporting jackets with wide ruffs at the collar, breeches, and hose. 

… I would only add further that he ought to consider what appearance he wishes to have and what manner of man he wishes to be taken for, and dress accordingly; and see to it that his attire aid him to be so regarded even by those who do not hear him speak or see him do anything whatever. 

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), Italian courtier and Renaissance author.

This quote is from the book “The Courtier” by Baldassare Castiglione published in 1528.

In Fashion History class the first exam (of three) is behind us (yes, I did well!) and we are now studying The Italian Renaissance and The Northern Renaissance.

I found this quote in our text book, Survey of Historic Costume, by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank. Throughout the book are quotes about fashion by individuals from different periods.

As for the quote – I say excellent advice for then and now.

 

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IMG_20200120_161145543Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire by biographer and historian Susan Ronald, covers Nast’s glamorous life and successful career as an American publishing giant.

There is much to cover and Ronald moves quickly over Nast’s early life from his birth in 1873 to his marriage to his initial interest in magazines. Once he enters into publishing she slows down and settles in on how Nast started with Collier’s magazine, moved on to Ladies Home Journal Patterns and eventually Vogue magazine.

Publishing Vogue and Vanity Fair are most of the story but we also read details about Nast’s famous “cafe society” parties and his grand apartment at 1040 Park Avenue in Manhattan. There are intriguing tales about fashionable characters such as Vogue fashion editor Carmel Snow, photographer Cecil Beaton, and writer Dorothy Parker.

The financial crash in 1929 hit Nast hard and he nearly lost his empire. We learn how over several years Nast fought to keep his business going by calling in favors. WWII was not an easy time either as French Vogue had to shut down and British Vogue (based in London) struggled to publish facing paper shortages and The Blitz.

But Nast and his empire did survive these challenges and that makes for great reading. Thoroughly researched with help from surviving letters and company documents, Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire is an excellent read for fashion and publishing industry history.

 

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IMG_20200107_142019 clothes are never just garments. Each time we stand before our closet to pick out our clothes, we make a series of choices about how we want to appear before the world. This is just as true for people who claim not to care about clothes as it is for self-proclaimed fashionistas. It’s because we recognize that the way we adorn ourselves communicates something about who we are and where we come from. And everyone has experienced the discomfort of showing up somewhere dressed like they didn’t get the memo. We can think of our clothes, then, as a powerful social skin. 

Tanisha C. Ford, author, pop-culture expert, and associate professor of African Studies and History.

This quote is from Ms. Ford’s memoir, Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martin’s Press).

In Dreams, Ms. Ford discusses the important role fashion played in her African American community of Fort Wayne, Indiana. From her parent’s colorful Dashiki shirts to baggy jeans to the hoodie to knee-high boots, she shares her childhood story and how fashion influenced her life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the interweave of fashion and the African American Mid-West experience in the 1980s/90s. Simply and distinctly, Ms. Ford offers readers a look at the point where politics and fashion crossed within her community and what that all meant to her at the time and now.

Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion – it’s a good read!

 

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IMG_20191203_130459My favorite part of the holiday season is that quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s when most of the rush is OVER. When we finally have a chance to stop, stay home, and relax. This is the best time to curl up with a pile of books.

And what’s a better gift for Christmas (Dec. 25), Hanukkah (Dec. 22- Dec. 30), Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) than a book?

On my fashion book recommendation list is IM: A Memoir (Flatiron Books) by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. I devour fashion stories and Mizrahi’s is a good one. He was part of the generation that landed in NYC in the early 80s when the city was edgy but real and making it there without buckets of money was still possible.

I read IM while visiting Manhattan and it was a kick to be walking past some of Mizrahi’s references –  like Macy’s on W. 34th Street across from which was his father’s office (he manufactured children’s clothing) or M&J Trimming on W. 38th Ave.,  (touted to be the best trim shop in Manhattan).

IM is a complete memoir starting with Mizrahi’s childhood in Brooklyn. His family was part of the Syrian Jewish community. With two older sisters and a fashionista mother, our hero was all about style from a young age. But he struggled as an overweight kid who liked Broadway tunes and spent his time making puppets and perfecting his impersonation of Barbra Streisand. He was an outsider at school, in his community, and at home. But he had a close relationship with his mother and even though he was unhappy, on some level it seemed that he accepted and even embraced his quirkiness.

I found the early part of this memoir fascinating, especially the section when Mizrahi attends School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. The same school featured in the 1980 film, Fame.  In fact Mizrahi auditioned for the gay character, Montgomery, which went to Paul McCrane. But he was in the film as part of a montage. It’s little tidbits like this that make IM a fun read.

Although Mizrahi initially wanted to become a performer, he was also drawn to fashion and he began to sell his designs at age 15 while still in high school. That pretty much set his fate, at least for a while.

In IM we get a peek at the fashion industry, how it worked back then and some behind-the scene descriptions. There’s a lot of name dropping and talk about Mizrahi’s friendships with the likes of Liza Minneli and Anna Wintour (both at one time pretty close with Mizrahi but the friendships didn’t stand the test of time). Well-written (ghost written?) and detailed, the narration doesn’t get in its own way. I was disappointed that there are no photos and I thought his work with QVC deserved more than a mention. I was interested to know how that came about.  Target, however, does get a chapter.

There is much to say about this book but I have holiday chores to get to! I’ll wrap it up by saying IM, A Memoir by Isaac Mizrahi is a good choice for you, my fashionable readers, and/or any fashionable on your holiday list.

 

 

 

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IMG_20191203_153101That summer job at Perry Ellis transformed my attitude toward what working in fashion could mean. Perry made the pursuit of excellence seem as important in fashion as it was in medicine or law. Lives might not have been at stake, but it was evident that even something as superficial as fashion required first, the desire to make something of quality; and second, the necessity of sacrificing almost everything else to hard work. 

Isaac Mizrahi, American fashion designer and performer.

I think anything done well – anything – requires hard work.

This quote is from Mizrahi’s memoir, IM. Stay tuned for a review of this book later in the week.

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Simple, elegant, comfortable. Jackie Kennedy Onassis did it well.

For many critics, the American style of dressing has gone too far. Yoga pants, hoodies, and flip-flops appear in all sorts of places they shouldn’t, like restaurants, offices, and European capitals … Comfort is not to blame. It appears that we’ve forgotten about panache. The most classic American women style icons always perfected both. Think of Jackie O. and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Lauren Hutton and Michelle Obama. They share a simplicity and elegance in their choice of clothes, adding a pop of flair with a scarf or hat, a hair twist, or an elegant shoe. 

From the book Brooklyn Street Style: The No Rules Guide to Fashion by Anya Sacharow and Shawn Dahl (Abrams Image).

This quote points out something very important – that comfortable fashion is not the same as sloppy fashion, or it doesn’t have to be.

We can be casual and still chic by keeping it tidy, choose the right size, and add an accessory or two.

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IMG_20190922_160622Don’t be afraid to be appropriate. It has become a dirty word in fashion and style talk. But for me, being appropriate means simply being in touch with the moment. When you are in touch with the moment, with yourself, you communicate effortlessly. 

Isabel Toledo (1961-2019), Cuban-American fashion designer.

 

This is a quote from Toledo’s 2012 memoir, Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion (Celebra Books).

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One of the many illustrations by Ruben Toledo in Roots of Style. 

I recently reread this book, which tells the fascinating story of the Toledos – both of whom immigrated to the US from Cuba as children. They met in high school and later forged ahead in their careers as a couple in 1980s Manhattan. Ruben Toledo is an artist and fashion illustrator. His charming illustrations are a highlight of the book.

As for the quote, well, I of course completely agree. Dressing appropriately shows presence in the moment whether that be a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, an expensive restaurant, the theater, the opera … it matters.

 

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qKBCeTOLKJwCWe wear what everyone else wears, but that in turn is constantly undermined by changes which take place in society. In the 1950s, that “everyone” was in twinsets and pearls; a decade later, it was miniskirts. The radicalized 1960s was a decade whose true and enduring revolution was the sexual one. Clothes were part of the physical liberation of the body, the undoing of what Dior had made twenty years earlier. Chic, elegance, style, femininity were no longer the measure of how you dressed. You dressed to feel free inside, and feeling free, perhaps you could actually make yourself (and others) free. You cannot take part in a demonstration in stilettos. 

Linda Grant, British author.

This quote is taken from the non-fiction book, The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter (Scribner, 2009).

Reading The Thoughtful Dresser I have wondered what Ms Grant would have to say about athleisure and the trend for sloppy dressing. I’m about two thirds into the book and she hasn’t commented yet.

What she does discuss is shifts in fashion from the 1940s on as well as the importance of clothing in society and to her personally. She says, “how we choose to dress defines who we are … how we look and what we wear tells a story.”

With her own stories and stories of others (including Catherine Hill, a refugee in Canada after WWII who went on to become a successful buyer for women’s clothing in various department stores) Ms Grant takes on the topic of fashion in a serious but accessible manner.

I’m enjoying The Thoughtful Dresser and I recommend it to fashion enthusiasts, particularly those interested in fashion history.

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IMG_20180117_151930Marchesa Casati was quite the It Girl in early 20th Century Europe. With a family fortune backing her, she lived a large life in several Italian palaces and another one in Paris, bespoke and designer duds, jewels not just for her neck but also adorning the collection of the live exotic animals she kept close at hand – black panthers, snakes, and monkeys.

Infinite Variety The Life & Legend of the Marchesa Casati (University of Minnesota Press, 3rd ed.) by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino fills us in on all the details of the Marchesa and her surrounding admirers.

Her grandfather and father made their money in cotton milling during a time when Italy was a great exporter of the fabric. Luisa Adele Rosa Maria Amman was born in January 1881. Although pampered, Luisa was not the favorite of the family and not the beauty her older sister was, which made her a somewhat shy child.

As teenagers the girls lost both parents and inherited a great fortune. It was after marrying Camillo Casati at age 19 that Luisa began to reinvent herself, her style, and she discovered ways to spend her money. She was an unusual looking woman for the times standing tall and thin with a long neck, large dark eyes, and a mop of curly hair. Luisa decided to “exploit her type to the full” by chopping off her long tresses and dying it red and outlining her eyes with black coal.

Here she is described in 1920 by a Russian royal exile:

In the room where I was introduced, a woman of singular beauty was (reclining) on a tiger pelt with translucent veils outlining her slender body. Two greyhounds, one black and one white, were sleeping at her feet … I hardly noticed the presence of  an Italian officer … Our hostess raised her splendid eyes. They were so large in her pale face, you could not see anything but them. With a slow and undulant movement, like that of a royal cobra, she offered me a hand decorated with rings of giant pearls. The hand itself was ravishing. 

IMG_20180117_133130Sporting a new look and money no object Luisa was soon holding grand parties for which she created outlandish costumes. She caught the eye of artists Augusts John, Man Ray and a host of others who painted, sculpted, and photographed her. Isadora Duncan was a friend, Worth and Leon Bakst, costume designer for the Ballet Russes, are credited with dressing her.

Luisa overcame her timidity and successfully created a persona that men and women alike could not resist. She had that certain elusive something, which made her an early 20th century icon such as a modern day Lady Gaga. Indeed at first she reminded me of British fashion follower and muse Isabella Blow (1958-2007) but the Marchesa went way beyond the antics of Ms. Blow.

It was the aim it seems of the Marchesa to be seen, clothed or not, (she would have fit quite nicely into our modern world of selfies and social media). But why is the question I kept asking and this book did not answer. Although a great documentation of just about every outlandish party she ever held, what I found missing is any discussion as to what made this woman tick.

Infinite Variety is an interesting peek at an interesting woman but description after description of party after party and quotes about how extraordinary she was got repetitious. After awhile I got fed up with the Marchesa whose superficial ways cost her her only daughter and the family fortune. (Although I do applaud Luisa for stepping outside the conventions of the day. Something only a woman with money could do.)

For anyone interested in fashion, the Marchesa is worth knowing about since she was such an icon and muse even in recent fashion history to the likes of Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, and John Galliano, but it’s hard for me to recommend a cover to cover read of this 259 page book. A brief skim and for sure spend some time with the images.

 

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