Ancient Times - 1900
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Bios & Theory


With the advent of the great Paris designers of the 19th century, fashion entered a new phase. The great designers have dominated fashion ever since. Here are a few books about a the great designers. Chanel, Fortuny, Schiaparelli, and others.

I have also included reference and theory books.

Biographies | Theory

The Great Fashion Designers

Valerie Steele
Women of Fashion Twentieth-Century Designers

A lavishly illustrated and well written book. Steele is the author of several books on fashion and she really knows her stuff. This book is about the many women who have played a role in 20th century fashion design.

Oleg Cassini
A Thousand Days of Magic

Subtitled, Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House, the focus of this book is on Oleg Cassini's designs for Jackie Kennedy during her husband's presidency. Lots of photos of the dresses accompanied by the original fashion drawings make this a great book for students of Cassini, Jackie, or early sixties fashion.

Edmond Charles-Roux

Harper Collins
Well written, this biography is an excellent text on the life of Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel. Focusing on her private life, the author paints an excellent word picture of the contradictory woman known as 'Coco'.

Amy Del La Haye & Shelly Tobin
Chanel The Couturiere at Work

An oversized paperback, this book is well illustrated with scenes from Chanel's life and work.From her earliest days to 1994, this book focuses on her innovative work.

Coco Chanel
Chanel Woman of Her Own

Henry Holt & Co.
Paper, $16.95
Another excellent biography of Chanel's private life.

P. De Marly
Christian Dior

Holmes & Meier
A well written biography of one of the 20th century's best known designers.

Marie-France Pochina
Christian Dior The Man Who Made the World Look

Little, Brown
Lots of text and a few pictures make this just about the definitive biography of Dior.

Marie-France Pochina
Christian Dior Universe of Fashion

St Martin's Press
This book has a 15 page essay by Pochina, author of another bio of Dior, and about 60 pages of photos of Dior's fashions. The format is small, approx. 6"x9".

Guillermo de Osma
Fortuny the Life & Work of Mariono Fortuny

Well worth the price, this gorgeous book amply illustrates the incredible fashion and textile work of Mariono Fortuny. This is the only book I've seen on Fortuny.

Palmer White
Elsa Schiaparelli Empress of Paris Fashion

The surrealist of fashion, Schiaparelli was one of the most imaginative and playful of the Paris designers. Wonderful photos and lively text make this book readable.

Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke Betty Kirke with a forward by Issey Miyake
Madeleine Vionnet

Chronicle Books
Even though Vionnet started her career in the 1920s I have chosen to place this book in the 1930s section because Vionnet was the mistess of one of the most important features of 1930s fashion, the bias cut. This book is the eagerly awaited reprint of a 1991 book first published in Japan. A Madeleine Vionnet Dress

The book has a biography of Vionnet placing her in the context of her time, but what is special about this book (aside from its oversized dimensions of 10 3/4" X 15") are the fantastic patterns that are included for several of her dresses. With great big clear photos of the dress on one page and the pattern drafted in scale on the facing page this book is the adventurous dressmakers delight. Some of the patterns are so complicated that I couldn't even figure them out! With most patterns you can visualize how they work. With Vionnet's you can't always find where the shoulders are supposed to meet!

Vionnet is one of my favorite designers. With this fantastic book you will be able to see why she is one of the fashion geniuses of the 20th century.



Richard Martin
St. James Fashion Encyclopedia

Visible Ink
More of a who's who of modern fashion than a what's what. This book covers all the important designers from 1945 to 1996. Well researched, this book is an excellent resource for those wishing to know more about the modern fashion personalities and their accomplishments.

  Fashion Theory

Anne Hollander
Seeing Through Clothes

University of California
Considered a classic by many, this book is very popular with behaviorists.

Malcolm Barnard
Fashion As Communication

In Fashion As Communication Malcolm Barnard introduces fashion and clothing as a way of communicating class, gender, sexuality, and social identities.

Valerie Steele
Fetish Fashion Sex & Power

Oxford University Press
Steele is one of the few writers exploring fashion and cultural behavior who takes into account the simple human desire to look good. Often our perceptions of attractive clothing are partially created by society, as opposed to springing out of a Freudian subconsciousness full grown with symbolism adjacent. This book explores the world of "Fetish" dressing, ie: black leather, ultra-high heels, and corsetry. A fascinating and intelligent look at the subject.

Ruth M. Green
The Wearing of Costume

Drama Books
Few people realize that, throughout history, the ways people wore their clothes changed almost as often as the clothes themselves. The most authentic period costume looks like fancy dress unless worn correctly. This dandy little book has a wealth of information on how to sit, walk, and move properly. Everything is based on contemporary evidence.

Joel H. Kaplan & Sheila Stowell
Theatre & Fashion

Cambridge University Press
This book explores the complex relationship between theatre fashion and society in the late Victorian and early modern era.

Annette Tapert & Diana Edkins
The Power of Style

It was hard to know just where to put this book. It is a pictorial-biography of fourteen of society's most fashionable women. From Rita Lydig at the turn of the century to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, these women were all known for their devotion to dressing well. Elsie De Wolfe, Mona Bismark, Millecent Rogers, Pauline de Rothschild, Coco Chanel, Diana Vreeland, Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Slim Keith, Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest, and Gloria Guiness are included.

Richard Martin
Fashion and Surrealism

Another book that doesn't really fit anywhere. This book spans the connection between Surrealism and Fashion from (roughly) the 20s through the 80s. Lots of black & white illustrations and learned text make this the last word on the subject.



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