100 Dresses from The Costume Institute The Metropolitan Museum of Art

McQueen

Alexander McQueen

I recently added this volume to my burgeoning collection of books on historical fashion (the new-to-me word passementerie* comes up a lot). 100 Dresses is a paragon of self-explanatory book titles. It’s a picture book for grown ups, the more tactful term would be “coffee table book”, but this is not an oversized book, and thus we have circled right back to “picture book”. I am not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, or my elasticized-waist pants, but I do love looking at clothing including current collections on Style.com and historical costume.

The book is a kind of primer with selections from The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s archives that represent either extant examples of period dress or works by important couturiers. (As the identity of individual designers was a 19th century development, Charles Frederick Worth the progenitor, earlier examples are always uncredited despite their remarkable craftsmanship.) It’s clothing created by artists/artisans for wealthy women. Each dress is presented with a photo and short explanatory essay. As someone who likes to look at clothing, but hasn’t read much, it was an excellent basic education for me, e.g. This is a dress by Cristobal Balenciaga, he was important to fashion design for reasons X, Y, Z. Some things I already knew, but a there was enough new information to keep things interesting, plus really pretty pictures.

Red Bustle Dress 2

Not this one, I just really love this.

*Passementerie or passementarie is the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings (in French, passements) of applied braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colored silk, or beads for clothing or furnishings. So like this gloriousness by the House of Worth also found in the book, then –

House of Worth

The (Shameful) Tally, although this book is technically Shamefree, it’s just one big list this year.

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