Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook Reviews

Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook

A detailed history and sourcebook of 20th-century fashion. From the styles of the early 1900s to those of today, John Peacock charts the development of women’s fashion in all its aspects: couture wear, day wear, under-wear, leisure wear, evening wear, bridal wear and accessories. Fashion’s greatest international designers and designs are all found here: Worth’s visiting dresses, Poiret’s and Chanel’s suits, Balenciaga’s classic gowns, Dior’s New Look, Mary Quant’s mini-dresses; right up to designs from Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix, Calvin Klein and many others. Photography could never capture so faithfully the dazzling variety of these designs. John Peacock’s research has allowed him to reproduce in detail their lines, shapes, weaves, pattems and colours. Arranged by decade, the pictures are accompanied by descriptions of each garment and accessory, including fabric, cut and pattem. The reference section includes a time-chart summarizing the development of fashion and dress-shapes, biographies of couturiers and designers, and a bibliography. John Peacock was for several years senior costume designer for BBC Television and is now Head of Costume for BBC, Pebble Mill, Birmingham. He has also written “Fashion Sketchbook 1920-1960″ (1977) and “Costume 1066-1966″ (1986), both published by Thames and Hudson.

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3 Responses to “Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook Reviews”

  1. Elizabeth A. Root Says:
    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Some strengths, but some serious weaknesses, August 18, 2006
    By 
    Elizabeth A. Root (Laurel, MD USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook (Hardcover)

    I am very disappointed with this item. I bought it on the strength of Peacock’s Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook, and the fact that Thames & Hudson was the publisher (another reputation bites the dust). One problem that both books share is that the title doesn’t really convey the scope. I realize that it is hard to define vague areas, but this is more or less Western European and American fashion, it is only about women’s clothing, not even the 2003 reprint covers the entire 20th century (it’s 1900-1990), and “complete sourcebook” is a bit of an exaggeration. Christian Lacroix claims in the Preface that the fashions of the 1990s are too diverse to be covered. How “fashion” is defined is one of the chief problems with the book.

    The basic plan is a good one: fashions for various occasions along with their associated underwear and accessories. The book is broken up into sections covering 5 years (e.g.,1900-1904) Each section has a page each of haute couture, accessories (usually shoes, purses, hats, wraps, and oddly enough, tops such as blouses and sweaters), leisure wear, underwear, evening wear, bridal fashions and two pages of day wear. Coats, jewelry, wigs, gloves, etc., are covered only sporadically. All are illustrated in color by 1100 drawings of a number of garments with dates; only the haute couture are attributed to specific designers. Apparently in order to save pages, the keys to the illustrations, with detailed information about the items, are grouped together in 10 year increments. I find this a bit annoying, but I understand the motive. This is followed by a very useful section with silhouettes for the beginning and ending of each five year period, with description of typical details: e.g. fabrics, trimmings, necklines. This is followed by brief vitas of designers and a bibliography.

    There are some oddities in this admirable plan. I was born in 1953, so I remember several decades. Slips start vanishing from the illustrations in the 1960s, even though Peacock still shows plenty of dresses, and are pretty much absent in the 1980s. I suspect more women wore slips later: dresses and skirts were actually more popular than a decade earlier. Contrary to the impression conveyed in the drawings, women did not stop carrying purses in 1970-1974 and 1985-1990.

    Worse, Peacock has ignored some of the major trends in 20th century clothing: blue jeans and denim; the decline of hats; and the rise of the woman’s business suit. Even given that a book of this size can’t really be “complete” this is a major failing.

    The industrial revolution made clothing relatively cheap: even the poor could afford new clothing and affect designs. As Christian Lacroix says in the Preface: “… the more the century progresses, the greater the gulf between magazine images of fashion and what is actually being worn on the street.” Peacock seems to ignore this. Lacroix continues less accurately: “There is no risk of that with this book … the every day is … side by side with fashion’s idealized images.”

    Peacock himself says: “As dictated by the couturier, fashionable dress represents an ideal which few women attain but to which many aspire.” He states that this book is his impression of the “ideal”. I question defining fashion as strictly determined by couturiers or designers. They are a phenomenon of only the last couple of centuries; fashion existed long before they did. Historically, fashionable clothing was available only to the fairly wealthy and was an indication of their status. Now more people can afford designer clothes, but choose not to wear them. Bell-bottom jeans were as much a fashion of the 1960s-1970s as mini-skirts. Further, jeans were later created by some of the fashion designers that Peacock lists.

    There are only hints that hats were pretty much abandoned except for cold weather and, in some cases, religious venues. Someone once described this as the greatest revolution in Western costume! When I was young, most women would never have gone to church or anything other than the most casual event without gloves and a hat. If they didn’t have a hat, many put a handkerchief on their head. Now it is very common for women to be bare-headed.

    Lastly, the business suit, particularly the knee-length versions that have probably been the most common, are virtually ignored.

    The variety of types of garments are a major strength of this book, and some people may want it for that reason. I think it is a very poor representation of how people, even those consciously following some fashion, actually dressed. I suspect that many people with a great interest in the fashion of these years have this information already, and it is questionable as a sole, basic source. Certainly I wouldn’t suggest that a novelist, say,…

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  2. Anne Says:
    9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Among the best costume history books…, March 22, 2000
    By 
    Anne

    This review is from: Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook (Hardcover)

    Comprehensive, but brief enough so that one does not get lost in a tangle of illustrations and texts. Excellent discriptions for the clothing, and accurate, well drawn pictures. A must have for every costumer or clothing lover.

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  3. Jennifer Taylor Says:
    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    great “handbook”, March 18, 2003
    By 
    Jennifer Taylor (Tulsa, OK United States) –

    This review is from: Twentieth-Century Fashion : The Complete Sourcebook (Hardcover)

    I’m a vintage clothing dealer and use this book constantly. Not as a reference for myself (there are many better books on this subject) but as a guide to show customers a general guide to the “look” of a certain period. The picture outline format is great for just illustrating trends in outfits from the time. I show them how you can capture a look with certain styles or accessories that may or even may not be period. It is a wonderful tool that I have used many, many times. I may not recommend it as a comprehensive guide to vintage, but as a visual tool for a quick education at a glance, you can’t beat it.

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