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Kristina Harris of Springfield, Oregon is one of the antique clothing field's recognized experts. A member of the Costume Society of America, she is an enthusiastic writer, lecturer,and workshop director.
This book is a perfect companion to Alison Gernsheim's compilation of vintage B&W fashion photographs (for Dover). Schiffer, best known for its books aimed at antiques collectors, presents this survey by Kristina Harris (who herself models some of the outfits) of women's fashion decade-by-decade from 1840 to the edge of the Jazz Age. Most of the outfits presented here are reproductions, but perfect ones; as Harris explains, real vintage clothes dating back to the Victorian and Edwardian periods are often too fragile to wear and are better suited for display purposes. The photography is mostly full-color, of modern models wearing the clothes (mixed with an ample number of vintage photographs and illustrations) and excellent. The text is smoothly written and highly detailed, going over every detail of Victorian costume from hats to underwear. Put this in your vintage-fashion library!
The premise is great, but this book is one of the most disorganized and badly shot that I have ever seen. Way too many of the pictures are out of focus and 1 is obviously upside-down.
I found it very frustrating that clothing from different eras have been all mixed together without regards to text, i.e. pics of Edwardian and late Victorian dresses in the 1860's chapter and vice versa.
A few of the construction details are shown , which is nice, but the dresses are "modelled" (ack!) by people who are not wearing period underpinnings. A 1862 dress worn without a crinoline?!?! The editor was obviously far more concerned with the models' faces than the clothing - it's soooo frustrating to see only part of a dress that isn't even hanging properly! A lot of side shots, too, so that the model's arm occludes the waistline and the front.
Most of the clothing was also shot out-of-doors and for some weird reason black/dark dresses have been shot in heavy shade, so that details (lace? pleats? waistline?) are invisible.
Don't waste your money. I tried to keep this one for a year, realized I rarely opened it, then it went off to Goodwill.
I enjoy all of Kristina Haris' books on fashion, and I am so thankful that she has taken the time to show everyone actual pieces of fashion history. One poster remarked that it was hypocritical of Kristine to photograph women in these delicate vintage clothes that need to be preserved -- as a museum director, I understand that remark, yet I believe that sometimes it is good to show how the clothes would have actually looked on a real person, especially with accessories. I am just delighted Kristine shares pictures of these outfits with us, because good color photos of authentic historical dress are very hard to come by.
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