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Paperback Costume and Fashion: A Concise History Book

ISBN: 0500203482

ISBN13: 9780500203484

Costume and Fashion: A Concise History

(Part of the World of Art Series)

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Good

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Book Overview

From the momentous invention of the needle some 40,000 years ago to the development of blue denim; from Neolithic weavers to the biggest names in the fashion industry today--this classic guide covers the landmarks of costume history, the forms and materials used through the ages, as well as the underlying motives of fashion and the ways in which clothes have been used to protect, to express identity, and to attract or to influence others. The concluding...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Pretty basic, very trustworthy--a good start

Using only primary resources (paintings, statues, etc. from the periods being shown), this book is both concise and trustworthy. Unlike other books that try to cover an expansive period of time in Western costume, this one never uses original or after the fact illustrations, which can be misleading and/or inaccurate. The only downside is that there are only a few samples from each period, so the reader doesn't get as broad a sense of the time as one might hope. Still, if the idea is to get a broad understanding, the text with the pictures combine to make a decent starting point for Western fashion from Ancient times to the 1990's.

Great introductory read.

An easy read. Covers from 2900 B.C. to the 1990's with a particular emphasis on the 1800's. James Laver's writing style is wonderful, describing not only the clothing but the historical and social context for each style of dress. The fashions of each period are illustrated by a variety of historical evidence, including statutes, famous works of art, fashion drawings, diaries, cartoons and photographs. The book is not an in-depth study of each period but rather a very brief overview. The last chapter covering from 1940 to the 1990's was writen by Amy de la Haye and is markedly different in writing style. She does not discuss the social and historical context to the extent that Laver does but rather gives an overview of the major designers of each decade and their respective styles. As there is a lot to discuss in the last 50 years of fashion, I wish that this book had dedicated more than 31 pages to modern fashion.

An excellent place to start

This classic by James Laver is a very good introduction to the subject. This is not an exhaustive history of clothing that one should consult for lengthy descriptions, or pinpoint accuracy tied to the latest scholarship. But what this book is (and is wonderfully) is an overview of a very vast subject distilled into one portable volume. The illustrations are excellent and worth the price of the book in themselves. Great amounts of detail are lacking, but the student of costume history can look elsewhere for in depth information in the works of Boucher, Davenport, Ribeiro, and others. This book can provide the basic knowledge one needs to approach the more advanced publications. There are discrepencies of terminology in comparison to other texts. This is especially true in his descriptions of Byzantine court costume; Laver uses some Greek terms as opposed to the Latin terms used by most other historians. Laver also has an ethnocentric bias and gives much information from an English point of view. As with Contini's "Fashion: A Social History" and Batterberry's "Fashion: The Mirror of History" (both sadly out of print), Laver's prose and scholarship are a little dated, and he predates political correctness. But the history of clothing is heavily tied to religion and superstitions, public morals and sexuality, gender and social hierarchy. To tell a politcally correct history of clothing is to apply a bias as skewed as the biases it would seek to rectify. This is a highly readable and succinct account of its subject and is strongly recommended. Given that the wonderful Contini and Batterberry books are not available, Laver's very accesible text is an excellent introduction for the beginning costume historian.

Fab Pictures....

This is a nice *SMALL* (which is important when you are carrying it back and forth to class) book that is FULL of pictures. Don't by this book if you are looking for detailed explanations of the costumes...go to Boucher if you are looking for that... But if you want a good colour pictoral quick reference, this is the one to buy. I love it and use it all the time. It is cracked open to the picture of Rubens and Isabella Brant!
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