Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now

Valerie Steele, Author Yale University Press $45 (176p) ISBN 978-0-300-07132-0
In this companion volume to an exhibit due to open in October at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, curator Steele (author of Art, Design, and Barbie) covers familiar information with a stylish, breezy tone. There is nothing wrong with the writing or organization of this book, but the content is hardly groundbreaking. Steele argues that ""Many people mistakenly believe that the term `fashion' refers only to high fashion,"" although certainly most readers are by now aware that trends trickle up from the street as often as they trickle down from haute couture. Each century's trends are presented and then dutifully tied to the political currents of their eras. This means that the late 1940s marked both the birth of Christian Dior's ""New Look"" and the end of the war, and that the youthquake of the early 1960s was reflected in Mary Quant's mini-skirts and Yves Saint Laurent's ""Beat Look"" collection (including ""a black jacket in crocodile skin trimmed with mink and worn with a black mink `crash helmet.'""). In the face of a lack of analysis, most of the fun to be had here lies simply in remembering what people wore (or refused to wear, although Steele rarely differentiates between what designers proposed and what actually sold), including a line of disco-inspired sparkling underwear in the 1970s and Gaultier's torpedo-breasted corsets in the 1980s. Illustrations galore (150, with 100 in color) help perk things up, but the recitation of wacky styles and blunt reporting of cultural trends--including the breathless pronouncement that ""every time [Linda Evangelista] changed her hair color it made headlines""--quickly loses interest. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 168 pages - 978-0-300-08738-3
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