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Vintage Clothing 1880-1980 Paperback – April, 1995
Though the text is minimal and the illustrations are black and white, Vintage Clothing is packed with ideas for costume designers, clothing collectors and restorers, and even experienced home sewers who'd like to incorporate some historic flair into their designs. Using a combination of period fashion illustrations, old photographs, contemporary photos of period clothes, and detailed captions, the volume traces the evolution of a century of clothing styles. Although not as nicely produced as many other costume/fashion history books, the sheer variety and number of details on every page make it a worthwhile reference. Also included are estimates of the outfits' worth in today's market.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book focuses very strongly on the early period, and has little of any use from after the 1940s. There are almost no photographs of actual garments such as the actual collector might run across. Nearly all of the images are old catalogue illustrations, in black-and-white, with all the distortion and idealization that old advertising images are prone to. They are not sorted or labeled in any helpful manner. Furthermore, the reproductions are very muddy, almost photocopy-looking. There are a few photographs of old garments worn by modern people posing as if for historical portraits, and a few display photos from auction houses of extremely rare and valuable couture garments, not at all like what the typical collector could possibly find. There are even some photos of the author wearing a historical *costume* sewn from reproduction patterns!
It would have been far better to see careful photos of actual garments that have survived.
The values given for the garments are very optimistic, even today, and especially when the book came out. The prices for the auction houses' Worth garments may be based on actual sales (but not of much use to the typical collector), but much of the rest of them seem to be based on wishful thinking.
There is no discussion of condition or rarity, care or documentation. It reads like a personal scrapbook of someone very enthusiastic but not very organized. There are so many better books out there for the vintage collector; best to avoid this one.
As for the "value" guide; we know, or should know, that prices of vintage clothing can vary wildly depending on where you live, what is hot and what is not, if the seller wants to sell low and if the buyer wants to buy high. I think the prices indicated in this guide, though nearly ten years old, are still fairly accurate, adding 30 to 40 percent to the higher-end, rarer pieces and giving or taking 10 to 20 percent on the low end.
I believe Maryanne Dolan knows vintage clothing, and knows the field well. Her historical research is good, and her appreciation and passion for costume is inspiring. Her overviews of the periods at the beginning of each chapter are well-written, clear and easy to read.
It is true, however, that the book needs an index, some copy editing and perhaps a more sophisticated design layout for today's collectors. All seriously considered books need an index; just a fact of life in a costume or fashion researcher's world. Perhaps in a next edition?
It is wise to note that one isn't going to get rich buying and selling vintage clothing today -- a nice living perhaps, if you have a decent collection already established -- but a fantastic hobby is always a possibility.
An update is in order, but all in all, this is a good book worth having in your fashion history, vintage clothing or collecting library. Besides, when you can get 300 pages of pretty decent material for less than $10, how can you go wrong?