Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Watcha wearing?

You don't have to be a fashion plate to enjoy looking at photos of haute couture, either for the composition and beauty of the photography or for the colorful, elaborate construction of the designers. Since some of the best fashion images have appeared in the pages of Vogue, it seems that a book that showcases the history of that magazine would also be a feast for the eyes.
Vogue Fashion: over 100 years of style by decade and designer, in association with Vogue takes readers through hobble skirts, cloche hats, bias cut skirts, wasp waists, bell bottoms, power suits and heroin chic. Author Linda Watson explains changes in the culturally and economic atmosphere of the West (Europe & America), and how those changes influenced fashion designers. The designers, in turn, pushed the limits of what was socially acceptable and caused behaviors and expectations to change. No one thinks much of seeing a lady's calf now, but in 1909 only actresses and showgirls - and not very reputable ones at that - flashed their legs at men.
The book is almost 400 pages long, but the dimensions are small (15cm x 21cm) so it's not an exhaustive guide to fashion history. The Designers section is nice, because it includes some older and lesser-known artists and fashion houses that have all been influential in their own way. The pages are lavishly sprinkled with color photos and black-and-white sketches (mostly from Vogue, of course) that illustrate the changing waves of fashion and the evolving ideal of feminine beauty. We can snicker at the Pierre Cardin spacesuit-inspired tunics and jumpsuits, but who knows what current fashion staple will be considered appalling in 40 years?

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