The London Look: Fashion from Street to Catwalk
Christopher Breward, Edwina Ehrman, Caroline Evans. Yale University Press, $52 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-300-10399-1
An impressively researched endeavor to give London's fashion its due, this book--which accompanies an exhibit at the Museum of London--demonstrates the city's ""distinctive character"" through clothes and asserts that London stands apart from other fashion epicenters like Paris, Milan and New York City. The authors work in tandem to illuminate London's rich sartorial history, each taking on a section of the book (Breward the 1800s, Ehrman the first half of the 19th century and Evans the latter half). Each examines the iconic trends that prevailed during these periods, from the tailored finery of Savile Row to the subversive theatricality of Carnaby Street, and through personas as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Twiggy and David Bowie. The authors also offer expansive, erudite commentary on London's social, political and cultural currents, providing a lens through which to view the city's protean identity. London's marked ethnic and class diversity both find expression in the clothes; take, for instance, a lavishly beaded and embroidered silk evening dress made by Louise Winter in 1893 or a hand-woven cotton creation with a clear Thai influence, fashioned by Wendy Dagworthy in 1982. Style-setters over the centuries have seized upon London's lively culture as a dramatic backdrop for avant-garde costumes, as it were--exaggerated, idiosyncratic and even satirical threads that amplify the city's current cultural mood. This volume's sumptuous photographs and sketches showcase the pageantry and playfulness of various styles, as well as the assertions of elegance and the streaks of subversion woven through the texture, color, fabric and silhouette of each garment. All in all, this is a lavish treatment that lends the caprices of fashion the heft of informed scholarship. 20 b&w and 120 color photos.
Reviewed on: 11/01/2004