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The turn of the century brought with it an incredibly lush style of dressing. Soft draped materials and laces were the salient features of turn of the century fashion. These were the years of tea gowns and lingerie dresses. As the century advanced the S-silhouette gave way to the high waisted "Directoire" silhouette which in turn gave way to the tubular silhouette by about 1912. These fashions are now commonly referred to as "Titanic Fashions".

The fashion of the 20's reflected the Jazz Age perfectly. It was made for fast automobiles and the Charleston. For the first time in western fashion the knee was socially acceptable. Fashion changed radically in the early years of this century. The seeds for what became the Jazz Age were sown before World War I in the work of Paul Poiret, the Wiener Werkstatte amongst others. I'm not going to try to explain why fashion changed the way it did. I've read many theories, but none of them rings entirely true. The social influences that change fashion are so wide-ranging that I don't think any one historical event can pinpoint it.

Fashion Essay © 2002 by Christine Pascoe. All Rights Reserved.

Use these internal links to jump around the ages, just be aware that they are only approximate, some books cover from, say, 1915 to 1932, so you'd look under 1910 to find it.

1900-1909 / 1910-1919 / 1920-1929 / 1930-1949 / 1950 - 1996

 

1900-1909

Farid Chenoune
History of Men's Fashion

Abbeville
Cloth
From 1760 to 1990, this lavishly illustrated book follows men's fashion. Published originally in France, this book has a tendency to focus on French men's fashion, but it's big and has lots of black & white photos. Available through Amazon UK

Frances Grimble, (Editor)
The Edwardian Modiste: 85 Authentic Patterns With Instructions, Fashion Plates, and Period Sewing Techniques

Lavolta Press
Paper
Frankly, as with most Lavolta Press books, The Edwardian Modiste is way beyond my sewing skills. However, if you are adventurous and you require rigorous authenticity, this is the book for you. The patterns are reprinted from a professional dressmaker's manual and require drafting skills in addition to sewing skills. The clothes I have seen reproduced using this book are a treat to behold. I recommend this book for the strong of heart.

Frances Grimble, (Editor)
The Voice of Fashion: 79 Turn-Of-The Century Patterns With Instructions and Fashion Plates

Lavolta Press
Paper
Another excellent book for constructing period clothing with rigorous athenticity.

Jno.J.Mitchell Co.
Men's Fashion Illustrations from the Turn of the Century

Dover
Paper
Published between 1900 and 1910 in The Sartorial Art Journal the illustrations in this book features the sort of sophisticated custom-made garments that the upper class man would wear.

Kristina Harris, editor
Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques

Dover
Paper
An unabridged republication of Butterick's Dressmaking, Up to Date (1905 edition). This excellent sewing book for the home sewer gives information on altering patterns, embellishing clothing, mending, and proper sewing techniques. There are two short chapters on infants and boy's clothing that could be useful for recreationists.

Dover Pictorial Archive Series
Elite Fashions Catalog, 1904

Dover
Paper
Another of Dover's excellent catalog reproductions, this time of the Elite Styles May 1904 catalog. The Elite Styles Company was a pattern making company specializing in women's and girls clothing. The patterns are not illustrated, but the dresses shown look to be somewhat complex. I would assume that these patterns were not originally for the home sewer, but rather for professionals. Lots of tea gowns, at-home gowns, and the like are pictured.

Kristina Harris
Victorian & Edwardian Fashions for Women 1840 to 1919

Schiffer
Paper
Intended for the collector, this book features a great many photographs of vintage clothing. With minimal text explaining the modes and features of the clothes portrayed, this book is a useful addition to a costumer's library. Includes vintage fashion price list.

John Peacock
20th Century Fashion

W.W.Norton
Cloth
This book is a visual overview of women's fashions of the 20th century to date. Illustrated by the author, this book's format is that of a timeline. Drawing after drawing of women in clothes ranging from workaday wear to formal. Interspersed with illuminating text, this book is an excellent visual overview.

National Suit & Cloak Co.
Women's Fashions of the Early 1900s

Dover
Paper
Despite the all inclusive title, this book is a reprint of the National Suit & Cloak Co.'s 1909 catalog. This, like all the Dover books in this catalog reprint series, is an excellent source for fashion ideas and history. This catalog was aimed at the middle class woman and includes clothing for babies and very young boys and girls.

JoAnne Olian, Ed.
Everyday Fashions 1909-1920

Dover
Paper
The Sears Roebuck Company was America's largest clothing retailer in the early part of this century. The clothes they manufactured reflected and defined middle class taste. This book illustrates the decade with pictures from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

 


1910-1919

Martin Battersby
Art Deco Fashion

St Martin's Press
Paper
Martin Battersby traces the development of Art Deco fashion design and drawing in this illustrated survey which spans the period from 1908, with the emergence of Paul Iribe, to 1925 and the influential age of Erte. B&W illus. This book is scheduled to go out-of-print, but appears to have come back for another printing. It is a lovely pictoral archive of French high fashion of the period.

Home Pattern Company
Home Pattern Company 1914 Fashions Catalog

Dover
Paper
The Home Pattern Company specialized in Patterns for the adventurous needlewoman. Stylish up-to-the-minute fashions, children's clothes, and general household needle projects fill the pages of this catalog reprint. It also features vintage essays rating corsetry and other ready-made articles of clothing for the 1914 consumer.

B.Altman & Co.
Altman's Spring & Summer Fashions Catalog 1915

Dover
Paper
Published just before World War I, this catalog illustrates the sort of clothes a stylish middle and upper-class clientele might be inclined to buy. Focusing on women's clothes, this catalog also has babies, childrens and about 3 pages of men's clothes.

Gimbel Brothers
Gimbel's Illustrated 1915 Fashion Catalog

Dover
Paper
This complete reprint of Gimbel's 1915 catalog provides a revealing glimpse of what middle-class Americans of 1915 were wearing. Women, babies, girls, young boys, and assorted household goods are included in this catalog.

Stella Blum
Designs by Erte

Dover
Paper
From 1915 to 1936 Erte was associated with Harper's Bazar, furnishing readers with fashion designs, cover art and word-pictures of the European fashion scene.This book is a selection of Erte's remarkable work for Harper's Bazar, including 310 of his line drawings and 14 covers, 8 of which appear in full colour, and selections from his letters and commentaries for the magazine.

Erte
Erte's Fashion Designs

Dover
Paper
Alright, so most of Erte's clothes are unwearable. These early illustrations from Harper's Bazar show some that could be worn if you felt adventurous enough (and were prepared to walk around with your arms outspread at all times). The illustrations shown cover the years 1918-1932.

Perry, Dame & Co.
Women's & Children's Fashions of 1917

Dover
Paper
The clothing shown in this catalog reflects popular rather than high fashion, although the fashions are far from dowdy. The variations on a simple a-line skirt are fabulous.

Phillip Livoni, Ed.
Russell's Standard Fashions 1915-1919

Dover
Paper
Russell's was a small company in Pomona, California that sold a brand of patterns named Standard Patterns. The clothes were for the needlewoman who wanted to be stylish, but not too stylish. Excellent line drawing illustrations show the fronts and the backs of the clothes.

Gazette du Bon Ton
French Fashion Plates in Full Color

Dover
Paper
The full-color illustrations in this volume are all taken from the Gazette du Bon Ton between 1912-1925. All the major french designers are represented. If you like this period, this is a beautiful and cheap book to have.


1920-1929

For an essay with examples of 1920s women's clothing, visit my flapper fashion page.

Ellie Laubner
Fashions of the Roaring '20s

Schiffer
Paper
Filled to the brim with good clear colour photos of a wide variety men's and women's clothing and accessories of the 1920s. With explanatory text, and values, this book is aimed at collectors, but would be very useful for the reenactor.

Ruth Countryman, Elizabeth Weiss Hopper, William-Alan Landes
Women's Wear of the 1920's: With Complete Patterns

Players Press
Paper
Not for the novice sewer, the patterns are regular book pages printed on the grid system. Excellent if you are up for the challenge.

Kristina Harris
Vintage Fashions for Women 1920s-1940s

Schiffer
Paper
Dozens of clear colour photographs of contemporary women (the author 's friends) wearing a variety of clothing from the 20s to the 40s make this a worthwhile book. Slightly marrred by the obvously incorrect underpinnings on much of the 20s clothing, it still gives a pretty good idea of how the clothes fit and would appear. It includes a price guide and some informative text.

JoAnne Olian
Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties

Dover
Paper
In the 1920s, fashion magazines were the principal source for news of the latest Paris couture. One of the most famous and long-lived of these journals was L'Art et la Mode, published form 1880 to 1967. L'Art et la Mode captured the glamor that was Paris in the Twenties, from days at the races to nights at the opera, from Sundays at the Ritz to Saturdays at the Folies-Bergere, and it followed the glittering circuit that flourished from Longchamps to Deauville to Cannes to Biarritz. The magazine was read avidly not only by the rich who patronized the couture, but also by the woman who relied on her "little dressmaker" to copy the styles depicted in the periodical.

Stella Blum, Ed.
Everyday Fashions of the Twenties

Dover
Paper, $12.95
The twenties roared. From the sweet chic of the early twenties to the sleek sophistication of the late twenties, women were wearing clothes radically unlike anything that had been worn for centuries. This overview of the twenties illustrated by pages from mail order catalogs accurately depicts what the average American was wearing during this tempestuous decade. Womens, mens, and childrens clothes are all illustrated here.

Carol Belanger Grafton
French Fashion Illustrations of the Twenties

Dover
Paper
Carefully selected from rare issues of the famed French periodical La Vie Parisienne, over 630 copyright-free illustrations comprise a pictorial display of the sophisticated couture of the twenties. This book is packed with line cuts depicting women's fashion from 1918 to 1928. No text.

Franklin Simon & Co.
Franklin Simon Fashion Catalog for 1923

Dover
Paper
A prominent Fifth Avenue department store that catered to an upscale clientele for much of its lifetime, Franklin Simon & Co. also offered customers fashionable wearing apparel through splendidly illustrated catalogs. Using photographs of live models in its 1923 edition, the famous New York emporium promoted an extensive line of finely crafted clothing and accessories for men, women, and children.

Lanvin Dean Merceron, et al
Lanvin

Rizzoli
Cloth
Stunning picture book detailing the House of Lanvin during the life of Jeanne Lanvin, from 1909 to 1946. Gorgeous and entirely necessary if you are interested in her work as a designer. Lanvin's fashions were unique and unmistakably her own.

1930-1949

In the the late twenties and on into the thirties, the silhouette got longer and more shapely. By 1933 dresses had definate waists and busts. Prints became larger and bolder as did the colours. Fabrics used were naturals and a great many man-made materials.

One of the more obvious changes was the increasing use of bias cuts and goring. Collars and cuffs were also given more empahsis. As the decade drew to an end clothes were assuming a more boxy shape, with strong shoulder lines.

When the WWII started in 1942, fashion reacted by becoming very spare (shortages) and conservative (fear). Dresses were shorter in length than the thirties, but not so short as the twenties. Skirt, jacket, and blouse combinations ruled. But as conservative as dresses became, the over all effect of the war was to popularize trousers and casual wear for women as never before. During the twenties and thirties, when women wore trousers great effort was made to feminize them. The crotches often hung down around mid thigh in a sort of baggy skirt effect. In the forties, practicality reigned as the demands of war work required no-nonsense work clothes. As a result, womens' casual wear never quite retreated to the earlier "it's ok I'm really a woman" mentality of the thirties.

After the war, fashion languished until January 12, 1947 when Christian Dior presented his first collection. Dubbed the "New Look" the collection featured an incredibly lush selection of dresses that had hourglass figures and wide full skirts that reached well below the knee. The collection, immensely flattering to many women, was an immediate, albeit contoversial, success.


Maria Costantino
Fashions of a Decade: The Thirties

Facts on File
Cloth
Packed with pictures and some text, this book gives a good overview of American fashion and it's historical/political influences during the thirties. 64 pages with index.

Carol Belanger Grafton
Fashions of the Thirties

Dover
Paper
In the 1930s, the Fashion Review Service offered a wide selection of advertising spots to small clothing and department stores that had no art staffs of their own. The cuts provided an accurate depiction of the latest fashion trends-- hemline lengths, use of fur trims, sleek silhouettes, lapel widths and much more. Depicting women's, men's, and children's clothing, this book has no text.

Stella Blum
Everyday Fashions of the Thirties

Dover
Paper
For this historically accurate sampling of authentic 1930s American fashion, Stella Blum, former Curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, selected for reproduction 133 representative pages from rare Sears catalogs of the period (fall and spring catalogs for each year from 1930 to 1939). Hundreds of illustrations record what American men, women, and children were actually wearing in the 1930s when, as a copyline from the Fall 1930 catalog proclaimed: "Thrift is the spirit of the day. Reckless spending is a thing of the past."

Ruth Countryman, Elizabeth Weiss Hopper, William-Alan Landes
Women's Wear of the 1930's: With Complete Patterns

Players Press
Paper
Not for the novice sewer, the patterns are regular book pages printed on the grid system. Excellent if you are up for the challenge.

Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke Betty Kirke with a forward by Issey Miyake
A Madeleine Vionnet Dress Madeleine Vionnet

Chronicle Books
Cloth
Even though Vionnet started her career in the 1920s I have chosen to place this book in the 1930s section because Vionnet was the mistess of one of the most important features of 1930s fashion, the bias cut. This book is the eagerly awaited reprint of a 1991 book first published in Japan.

The book has a biography of Vionnet placing her in the context of her time, but what is special about this book (aside from its oversized dimensions of 10 3/4" X 15") are the fantastic patterns that are included for several of her dresses. With great big clear photos of the dress on one page and the pattern drafted in scale on the facing page this book is the adventurous dressmakers delight. Some of the patterns are so complicated that I couldn't even figure them out! With most patterns you can visualize how they work. With Vionnet's you can't always find where the shoulders are supposed to meet!

Vionnet is one of my favorite designers. With this fantastic book you will be able to see why she was one of the fashion geniuses of the 20th century.

 

Pamela Golbin (ed)
Madeleine Vionnet
Madeleine Vionnet by Pamela Golbin
Rizzoli
Cloth
Another entry in Rizzoli's great big gorgeous fashion books. Lots of pictures and information. While not as groundbreaking, it is an excellent companion to the Betty Kirke book.

 

Howard Gutner
Gowns by Adrian : The MGM Years 1928-1941

Abrams
Cloth
During his years with MGM Adrian had the opportunity to dress some of the most beautiful women in the world in clothing that stretched the boundries of fashion and extravagance. While most of the clothing he designed may not have been seen on the average woman on the street, it certainly influenced her fashion choices. Gorgeous and well-researched this book is a treat for those who want the definitive reference work on Adrian's earlier career.

Elizabeth Leese
Costume Design in the Movies

Dover
Paper
Although this book is a general reference on movie costumers from the teens to the '70s, most of the photos in it depict clothing from the 20s and 30s, so I've included it here. There is an illustrated alphabetical listing of designers with short essays and their screen credits.

Patricia Baker
Fashions of a Decade: The Forties

Facts on File
Cloth
Part of the same series as Fashions of a Decade: The Thirties, this book is packed with pictures and some text, this book gives a good overview of American fashion and it's historical/political influences during the thirties. 64 pages with index.

Amy de la Haye, ed.
The Cutting Edge : 50 Years of British Fashion 1947-1997

The Overlook Press
Cloth
This handsome hardcover is the only book I've seen on the subject. From Hardy Amies to Zandra Rhodes, this book covers all the important British Designers and fashion trends for the past 50 years. Packed with illustrations, essays and interviews with all the top players, this is a fine sourcebook on post-WWII British fashion.

Jan Lindenberger
Clothing & Accesories from the 40s,50s, & 60s

Schiffer
Paper
The primary focus of this book seems to be American fashion of the 50s. Lots of clear colour photos, little text, and a price guide make this a book intended primarily for collectors.

JoAnne Olian
Everyday Fashions of the Forties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs

Dover
Paper
Here is a richly revealing and very useful costuming tool. For all those who thought they knew how Americans of the 1940s dressed, here is the real thing. Men's, women's and children's clothing is illustrated.

Daniela Turudich
1940s Hairstyles

Streamline Press
Paper
Part of Turudich's wonderful series on vintage hairstyles. With lots of simple illustrations and instructions this is the only book I know on the subject. Out of Print

Wade Laboissonniere
Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s

Schiffer
Paper
Optimistically asserting that "most clothes were sewn at home" this book is a cornucopia of images from the fronts of pattern envelopes. This is a good reference for 1940s clothing as popularized by the major pattern companies. While this is a great visual resource, no actual patterns are included.

Deirdre Clancy
Costume Since 1945

Drama
Paper
Sub-titled Courture Street-style and Anti-Fashion, this book tries to include all within it's grasp. It is strongest on the sections for 1965 onward. It focuses on English, middle class clothing. Illustrated with line drawings by the author. Out of Print.

Michael Jay Goldberg
The Ties That Blind ; Neckties 1945-1975

Schiffer
Paper
Perhaps as a compensation for the overall sobriety of men's clothing during the postwar years, rather spiffy neckties were in fashion. Concentrating on the more colourful ties, this book is still a pretty good reference for men's neckwear.



1950 - Present

From the New Look (which Dior introduced in 1947, but which influenced street style well into the 50s) to Granny Dresses, here are the fashions most of us (and our parents) grew up with.
We don't have much on the 80s or 90s yet, the nostalgia market has yet to attach itself to those decades, your best bet for books on those fashions would be to check used book stores for outdated books on fashionable dressing.

Annette Tapert & Diana Edkins
The Power of Style

Crown
Cloth
It was hard to know just where to put this book. I have put here at the beginning of the 50s because that is when the majority of the women in this book were most active. This is one of the few books I've seen shows haute couture as it was actually worn by the women who bought it. The Power of Style is a pictorial-biography of fourteen of society's most fashionable women. From Rita Lydig at the turn of the century to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, these women were all known for their devotion to dressing well. Elsie De Wolfe, Mona Bismark, Millecent Rogers, Pauline de Rothschild, Coco Chanel, Diana Vreeland, Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Slim Keith, Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest, and Gloria Guiness are included. If you enjoy social history and gossip, this is a great book because it is very social.

Daniela Turudich
1950s Hair: Hairstyles from the Atomic Age of Cool

Streamline Press
Paper
Here are the 1950s as presented by Turudich's wonderful series on vintage hairstyles. While vintage information is still available if you are willing to look, you may as well save time and invest in this book. With lots of simple illustrations and instructions you will be looking properly 50s in no time.

Desire Smith
Fashionable Clothing: From the Sears Catalogs, Early 1950s

Schiffer
Paper
Lots of photo reproductions from the Sears Catalogs of the early 50s. Minimal blurbs - mostly photo after photo of blouses, skirts, etc. Women's, men's, and children's clothing included.

Joy Shih
Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs, Late 1950s

Schiffer
Paper
Lots of colour photo reproductions of all those fabulous Sears Cloths from the late 50s. 160 pages, with accompanying (minimal) blurbs by Joy Shih. Women's, men's, and children's clothing included.

Wade Laboissonniere
Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s

Schiffer
Paper
Another in Laboissonniere's series of pattern envelope image collections, this is a good reference for 1950s clothing as popularized by the major pattern companies. It also includes images for the incredibly complex couture patterns that appeared to vex the unwary in the 1950s. These images should furnish lots of ideas for your own projects. No actual patterns are included.

Kristina Harris
Vintage Fashions for Women from the 1950s and 60s, with values

Schiffer
Paper
A combination of vintage photos and pictures of modern people in vintage clothing, this is another of Kristina Harris's books on vintage fashion. Lots and lots of pictures with a few informative short essays make this a pretty good book on the (slightly nicer) fashions of the times.

Bosker, Mancini, and Gramstad
Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s

Chronicle Books
Paper
The title of this book is midleading, there are wonderful fabrics of the 20s, 30s, and 40s in here as well. With a large variety of clear colour photos and brief informative paragraphs, this is the best book we have on the subject. Sadly, this book is out of print.

Joy Shih
Fun Fabrics of the 50s

Schiffer
Paper
No text, index, or commentary, but lots of colour pictures of assorted novelty prints of the 1950s.

Joanne Olian
Everyday Fashions of the Fifties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs

Dover
Paper
Another excellent catalog anthology by the Dover Press. Lots of pictures arranged chronologically from the early fifties to the late fifties. This is an excellent visual resource for middle class American clothing of the decade.

Joanne Olian
Everyday Fashions of the Sixties: As Pictured in Sears Catalogs

Dover
Paper
As the title says - everyday fashions of the 60s. In the 1960s Sears Roebuck was a mercantile force to be reckoned with, every decent sized city had a Sears department store and nearly every household received their massive catalogs. With lots of pictures arranged chronologically from the early sixties to the late sixties, this provides a good overview of the clothes ordinary people were wearing.. Minimal text, just the catalog pages themselves.

Joy Shih
Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs, Mid 1960s

Schiffer
Paper
Inundated as we are with images of the 1960s, it's hard to remember that most of us really didn't dress like Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix. For the majority of Americans, clothing was a great deal more conservative (although we at the time thought it daring) than many of us remember. The Sears catalog books are excellent reminders of what most Americans were wearing from 1964 to 1966.

Joy Shih
Funky Fabrics of the 60s

Schiffer
Paper
Companion volume to Fun Fabrics of the 50s. Once again, no text, index, or commentary, but lots of colour pictures of assorted novelty prints of the 1960s. Although I thought Funky was more an early 70s word.....?

Joy Shih
Cool Hot Colors, Fabrics of the Late 60s

Schiffer
Paper
Another in this nifty series of picture books. Photo swatches of the text and accompanying (minimal) blurbs. 112 pages.

Trina Robbins
Tomorrow's Heirlooms: Fashions of the 60s & the 70s

Schiffer
Paper
Mini skirts, go-go boots, polyester (you never have to iron it!), Midis and Maxis, granny dresses, Gunne Sax, and all those wonderful clothes of the 60s and 70s! Mostly colour photo illustrations with a bit of well written and informative text.


 
 

I would like to thank The Louise Brooks Society for their contributions to this page.

 
   
 

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