A short window, a span of 80 years, is a microcosm of fashion at a crossroads, a time when artists fully plied their aesthetic touches on fabrics and design. Curator and art historian Stern examines the impact and influence of such well-known practitioners as William Morris and Sonia Delaunay, plus lesser talents such as Giacomo Ballo and Ilia Chasnik, on the shape of women's clothing. The author prefaces 30 essays with some diagnostics of her own, tracing fashion from the 1850s through the Arts and Crafts period and on to the onset of the avant-garde. What perks up an often academic narrative are the illustrations and photographs of actual artwear--including Gustav Klimt adorned in one of his own creations. Quotes, too, help; after all, who could resist Oscar Wilde's notion that "there is hardly any form of torture that has not been inflicted on girls"? Or Darwin's observation that "the development of dress presents a strong analogy to that of organisms"? "Thoughtwear" for a rainy day. Barbara Jacobs
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