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20,000 Years of Fashion The History of Costume and Personal Adornment

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0810916937
ISBN-10: 0810916932
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This scholarly, absorbing history of dress, an updated edition of a 1966 reference work, ranges from prehistoric costume through present fashion. From antiquity to the 14th century, costume was generally long, loose and draped, not nationalistic in character, and reflected magical and religious functions. From the 14th century, when costume became short and fitted, to the 19th century, clothing acquired personal and national characteristics. The third fashion phase, under the influence of industrial mass-production and European expansionism, beginning in the mid-19th century and continuing to the present, is less personal and more international, although there are also exclusive haute-couture designs for moneyed clientele. Readers will delight in the superior 1188 illustrations, including 356 full-color plates, that feature a bell-shaped, skirted terracotta idol from the eighth century B.C., sixth century B.C. funerary stele of the warrior Ariston, late 13th century Sicilian silk cloth, 17th century Rubens and Van Dyck and 19th century Renoir portraits, and a 1965 Saint Laurent minidress. The late Boucher and Deslandres were director and assistant, respectively, of the French Center for Costume Studies.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 459 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (September 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810916932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810916937
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.4 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne E. Mcbroom on April 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This thick reference book will look great on your coffee table... I've referenced it more times than I can count- if you are interested in historical costuming, this is a must have for a jumping point to do more research. It shows an overview of history through fashion, though I must admit the reading didn't draw me in, despite several attempts to drudge through it. More than anything, this book is full of copies of primary and secondary sources- both photographs of museum artifacts and details of paintings and sculptures. It has some nice information on Egyptian and Roman fashion in the beginning, but other than that its primary focus is on Anglo-Saxon oriented fashion. It must be stressed that this book is not an end all and be all when it comes to the word on fashion- though it provides a useful and generalized overview, and it may happen to have what you are looking for, it does completely ignore some very important years/fashions (example: Tudor, late 1400-mid 1500s! ). Caveat emptor, more for art fans and theatre costumers than die hard history buffs, but overall a good buy.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book primarily for those wanting a good overview of a very long period of time and for the beautiful pictures, many of which are in colour. However, especially for the periods before 1500, there often are simply not enough illustrations to accurately portray the changes in fashion during these years, and the text tends to focus on French fashion almost exclusively. I've also discovered errors in descriptions of styles by as much as a century and a half--best to ignore the text and make your own analysis based on the illustrations themselves, which are all contemporary sources, not modern interpretations or redrawing. A very good resource book for any costume library.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1997
Format: Hardcover
20,000 Years of Fashion is one of the best general overviews of the history of clothing. It is full of many beautiful color prints that are lovely to look at, and they are all considered "primary resource". Primary resources are paintings, drawings, statuary, or any art from that specific period. It is considered to be the most reliable and accurate depictions of what was worn (and even these are subject to interpretation). This is in contrast to this same artwork redrawn today. A good example of this are the really beautiful books of medieval costuming done during the Victorian era, such as those by Rascinet. The illustrations are redrawn from medieval paintings. They are beautiful color illustrations - but totally inaccurate. You can see the Victorian influence and mindset in their drawings. 20,000 Years of Fashion brings a general overview of clothing history and how it was influenced by its environment. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about clothing history or anyone just looking for a lovely book of pretty pictures.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Carman on March 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I recently purchased 8 different books on the history of costume, and I am pleased to say that this book seems to be, by FAR, the best book, while also being the lowest priced work that I purchased! I purchased the books with the intention of using them to assist in dating eighteenth and nineteenth century portraits, and this book is PERFECT for the task. When you open this book and flip through the pages, you can't help but think that it is exactly what you were seeking. It is just bursting with text and images, all on quality glossy paper that makes the images easy to see. Many of the fashion books I have examined seemed to have either too much text at the expense of images, or too many images with no additional information to assist. This book offers substantial helpings of both! I have to disagree with the reviewers who say the text is hard to follow or that the pictures are too small.... The pictures are quite easy to see, and the only ones in black and white are of origiinal works that happen to be in black and white, so I don't think this was a fair criticism. The text seems logically presented, with easy-to-follow section headings. I would never say that this book could serve as the "only" book you need if you are serious about obtaining specialist knowledge on the history of costume. However, I would certainly name it as the best "all-in-one" to start with. This book combines drawings of fashions, photographs of actual period clothing in museum settings, and plenty of examples of painted works depicting fashion trends. Being the critical person that I am, I cannot help but point out what I see as the one flaw: this book has extremely sparse information on military uniforms, so if you are interested in militaria you will need to seek a more specialized book.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Debora King on August 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you can only own one book on the history of costume this is the book. I would put it on my top ten books to take to a desert island IF ONLY to remember what the world once looked like. It doubles as an art history book in the sense that it uses art up until the 20th century to show what people (albeit WEALTHY people who could afford to have their portraits done) wore. It is a beautiful resource.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is full of excellent 1st degree research. I have used it on multiple occassions to set me on the right track for doing intensive research on a variety of periods. It does lack a bit in non-Western costume, but the periods it does cover are done very well. Its a great reference book to have around.
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