Book Review: Fashion the Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

We went to a book sale last fall in the next town over.  They were charging $5 for a paper bag full of books.  When we saw how amazing the books we bought were, we gave them a little extra.  I thought that one book looked like something our readers might really enjoy, but never hear about in the normal run of things.  How it came to be in the small town of Windsor, CO, who knows, but we know quality when we see it:

Fashion was published in 2014 by Taschen.  It’s 686 pages of fabulousness, with so many wonderful photos.  The collection covers three centuries of fashion, both male and female, from the 18th century to modern times.  It would be worth it to fly to Kyoto, Japan just to spend a week wandering the Costume Institute.  Besides the clothing itself, it includes undergarments, hats, gloves, stockings, shoes, buttons, fans, and closeups of the beautiful fabrics.  I had to be careful while looking through it so that I wouldn’t drool all over the pictures.  BTW, the garment on the front of the book, by Worth c. 1885, shows the back of a jacket which was slit and decorated to accommodate and emphasize the bustle.

This first picture shows details from a stomacher:

A stomacher, which is a triangular panel that is worn over the robe (dress) and has a V or U-shaped bottom.  They were pinned to the robe so they were pretty labor intensive.  The stomacher was worn to take away attention from the bosom!?  This is a Swiss example from the 1760s.

These two charming dresses are from the mid 1760s:

This style came about because people wanted simplified and more comfortable styles, believe it or not.  The short-sleeved jacket and fingerless gloves were considered practical.  It seems incredible to us now that this was more comfortable and practical than previous clothing styles, which must have been similar to straitjackets!  That silk satin fabric is just scrumptious.

I don’t want to neglect the gentlemen:

The leftmost ensemble is made from wool and gold braid and was worn in 1740s  England.  The suit includes a coat, waistcoat, and breeches.  The other suit, also coat, waistcoat, and breeches, is French from 1765.  It’s made from velvet.  They would also have worn stockings and pretty darn fancy shoes, which might have had a fairly high heel, gloves, jewelry, and a hat.  It might have taken men just as long as women to get dressed for a fancy party.

This is my favorite headdress from the entire book:

The whole outfit is French from the 1780s.  It wasn’t enough to wear a stunning gown, with panniers.  You had to do something amazing up top, too.  I don’t know how she got into a carriage wearing this!  Kathy and I read a book by Vonda N. McIntyre called The Moon and the Sun.  It’s a fantasy novel set in the court of Louis XIV.  It’s wonderful, if you like a good fantasy, and the book spent quite a bit of time describing the headdresses which French women of fashion wore.  I think that lot of the story followed along with history, so that was fun, too.

I loved the detail of the bodice of this round gown from 1795:

It’s made from white silk brocaded taffeta with silk and gold embroidery.  The pin tucks  provide texture, and the lace is a gorgeous touch.

We’re jumping ahead to the Regency period, and these outfits are from the 1815s:

These are riding outfits.  The gentleman is wearing buckskin breeches and his riding boots with a different color leather at the tops.  His outfit looks practical, if you think a tight jacket with tails can be practical.  She is wearing a hunting jacket which is called a spencer, and a muslin petticoat.  I have no idea how anyone rode sidesaddle in that getup.

This is a plain-weave cotton day dress from the 1830s:

I have read Regency novels for 50 years and never knew what a fichu was.  It’s a small shawl worn around the shoulders.  You can see the lace fichu on this dress.  Also, the sleeves are a style called gigot.

I kind of skipped over the Victorian wear, although the dress above could be considered really early Victorian and this next gown is late Victorian, from 1894:

It’s a Worth evening dress, made from silk satin, with a chiffon bodice.  It features “… ‘morning sun with clouds motif’ [which] forms a powerful association with Japan, ‘the land of the rising sun.’ ”  Japanese imagery was coming into fashion in Europe, and this gown reflects that trend.  It must have been stunning—imagine a Gibson Girl wearing this.

The book also had some lovely traditional Edwardian fashions, but I adore these party costumes from Paris, 1913:

Orientalism was common in Paris and Eastern Asian fashions and designs were the rage.  Poiret, the designer of these costumes, held a very influential fancy dress ball in 1911 where he debuted his “Oriental” collection.  The Ballets Russes in 1909 was also part of this trend.

I love this crepe de Chine shawl from 1920s Paris:

This shawl was designed by Paul Poiret again, to be worn with a matching dress.  The design was called “Insaalah” so East Asian designs were still in vogue.  The red crepe de Chine was woven with gold to get that lovely luster.

Elaborate long dresses were back in fashion in the 1930s, and here is a stunning pair:

These were designed by Jeanne Lanvin in the mid to late 1930s despite the Great Depression.  The mermaid dress on the left is made from black linen organdy with an underdress of crepe de Chine.  The pattern was applied with embroidery.  The velvet gown on the right has dramatic detachable sleeves.

The years of WWII were a bit grim, and fashion was an afterthought.  The book has quite a bit about post-war fashion—Dior, the revival of Parisian Haute Couture, the rise of ready-made fashions.  It makes for interesting reading.

With all that, I thought these two dresses were so typically 1950s with the wide skirts and thin waists:

The dress on the right is one of Jacques Fath’s last works, as he died in 1954.  Polka dots are the best!  I could imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing either one of these dresses.

Skipping on to the 1960s.  The book has some fab outfits that would have been someone’s pride and joy.  I’m not sure this Pierre Cardin design of a unisex suit was something anyone really wore:

I’m not sure zippers are more unisex than buttons, but okay.  The vest and knickerbockers are made from wool flannel and the white sweater is plain wool.  Of course the belt is patent-leather.  It does look more comfortable than the suits from the 1740s.

There were pictures of chain mail fashions, Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress, and all kind of craziness, but I think this speaks to the 1960s as well as anything:

This paper dress is called the “Souper Dress” and came out in 1966 in America.  The description says that the designer is Anonymous.  Probably because they used Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can design.  Andy himself made the “banana dress” and the “fragile dress“.

Take it from us, nothing good happened with fashion in the 1970s, NOTHING!

I really like these late 1980s suits by Thierry Mugler, Paris:

These are the power suits that I would have worn, if I could have afforded them.  I double-dog dare the boss to ignore you when you waltzed into the office wearing any of them!

There were some more modern fashions, but there is only so much time and space to devote to this post.  I will leave you with this last fashion that is more art, than something to wear:

This dress was designed by Yohji Yamammoto in 1991.  It looks so structural, almost like armor.  Sitting must be a nightmare! 😉

If you have an interest in fashion and costumes, I cannot recommend this book enough!  It’s something to savor and revisit over and over.

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4 Responses to Book Review: Fashion the Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

  1. Sandi Magle says:

    I love to pick up coffee table books…and this is a beauty! Your commentary is excellent also!

  2. romitazz says:

    A great review of this book Deb – thanks – you make me want to hunt it down. I think I’d love to sit on a cold day (which it has been all winter here) and look through it. Thanks for sharing this. (Rosemarie in Calgary) 🙂

    • kathy & deb says:

      Thanks Rosemarie, glad you enjoyed the review. When I was looking at details of the book at Amazon, they had used copies at fairly low prices, although not as low as what we paid! 😉 It is a book to curl up with and browse through. The photographs are amazing. Have to say, I’m really grateful for being a modern woman!

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