A fine tradition was revived this year when three fashion history books were found under the tree. A second tradition was also revived - that of my nose buried in a book on Christmas Day. All three texts are speedy reading but great fun, and photo heavy.
Let's take a look.
Style Book: Fashionable Inspirations , Elizabeth Walker.
All photos. All the time. But a treasure trove of inspiring photos from 1865 to the present, grouped by theme rather than year. Checks, Stripes, Fur, Denim, Flower Power - they all have a section. The subjects range form royalty to Hollywood to the street. There are some inaccuracies and oddities in the captions, but these are few and far between. Most glaring is a photo of Katherine Hepburn in the famous white crepe beaded and sequined evening dress designed by Adrian for The Philadelphia Story (1940) is dated 1935 and called a "peasant shirt with bands of bright embroidery." That said, it's still 475 pages of eye candy.
Cristóbal Balenciaga, Phillipe Vent Hubert Givenchy:Grand Tradition of French Couture, Christianne de Nicolay-Mazery.
More eye candy plus there are short bios of each designer. Then a series of really lovely photos by Luc Castel of selected garments displayed at Haroue, the Château of the Princes of Beauvau Craon. The château gets stunning photos and detail shots all its own as well. When given, the background story the gowns is fascinating. This work commemorates the 2010 exhibit of 50 gowns at Haroue, selected by Givenchy.
Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen, Sarah Jane Downing.
Another in the Shire Library series, these are small and handy books. This one actually has real text and does a fine job of covering the intersection of social history and fashion with illustrations of period fashion plates and paintings. The specific references from Austen’s letters and novels are a highlight.