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Guest Book Review: Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion

Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America

Emma Tarlo and Annelies Moors, eds.

294 pp., illustrated, Bloomsbury, $29.95

Guest book reviewer, Jennifer Heath

There are moments I think we’re beating this horse to death. I worry that we are still far too fixated on the hijab (veil) and on Muslim women’s dress, though we should be turning our gaze toward other, more pressing issues that profoundly affect women: e.g., poverty, war, and environmental degradation. Will we ever be content to let women dress as they choose without judgment or comment?

Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America is an essential collection that fulfills a great deal of scholarship. It features sixteen essays covering history, anthropology, sociology, and fashion studies.  Editors Emma Tarlo and Annelies Moors have written an excellent introduction, particularly in its discussion of how dress affects religiosity and piety, how fashion relates to assimilation and creativity, and the politics of so-called Muslim dress or “the performative power of the headscarf to make identity claims and political demands,” as Rustem Ertug Altinay puts it in his chapter “Sule Yüksel Senler: An Early Style Icon of Urban Islamic Fashion in Turkey.” Tarlo and Moors remind us that Muslim women are habitually perceived as shrouded and silenced and that their coverings often seem to prove they are merely “agents of barbarism,” as Canadians A. Brenda Anderson and F. Volker Greifenhagen write in “Covering up in the Prairies.” Yet within the bounds of “proper” Muslim dress, there is vast, sophisticated sartorial ingenuity and, as Tarlo calls it, “the agency of the hijab.” (Unfortunately, too much sensational focus on the hijab also robs women of their agency.) The editors write that the “book grows out of awareness of the discrepancy between public discourses…and actual developments…pointing to the need for greater understanding and more nuanced interpretation.” Indeed.

Altinay’s chapter about Turkey pushes the book’s self-ascribed Europe boundaries, but Banu Gökanksel and Anna Secor bridge the gap with “Transnational Networks of Veiling Fashion Between Turkey and Western Europe.” Many Europeans are ethnic Turks, many whose families arrived generations ago as guest workers. Maria Curtis addresses Turks in the United States with “Closet Tales from a Turkish Cultural Center in the ‘Petro Metro’, Houston Texas.” Altinay offers essential historic ballast (with kudos to Audrey Hepburn), for one thing, helping to explain how the headscarf was enthusiastically re-inaugurated into a society that was mandated by its leadership to be secular.

Most interesting are those essays about unfamiliar, rarely noticed practices and challenges, like  Daniela Stoica’s “The Clothing Dilemmas of Transylvanian Muslim Converts” or Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska and Michael Lyszcarz’s “Perspectives on Muslim Dress in Poland: A Tatar View,” a study of the Tatars’ distinctive, traditional uses of the headscarf as they encounter a new (and often insistent) interpretation of Islam.

Annelies Moors’ “Fashion and its Discontents: The Aesthetics of Covering in the Netherlands,” Synnøve Bendixsen’s  “‘I Love My Prophet’: Religious Taste, Consumption and Distinction in Berlin,” and Connie Carøc Christiansen’s “Miss Headscarf: Islamic Fashion and the Danish Media” look to the entanglements of belonging, social conflict, politics, gender, and sexuality (among other things).

I once asked Reina Lewis – who, like Leila Karin Österlind with “Made in France: Islamic Fashion Companies on Display,” examines merchandising in “Hijab on the Shop Floor: Muslims in Fashion Retail in Britain” — whether the trend among Euro-American women combining trousers with dresses was related to the beautiful salwar kameez, a customary costume in South and Central Asia. She thought it more likely to be a retro-hippie craze. I’m not so sure, because, as we see in various chapters of this book, and in Tarlo’s previous work, contemporary Islamic fashions, increasingly distanced from indigenous clothing, are so modish, attractive, elegant, fun, and streetwise that even young non-Muslim women could find them irresistible. But would they also wear hijab?  Well, that might, at the very least ─ at last ─ render all this who-wears-what fuss moot.

Jennifer Heath is an independent scholar, award-winning cultural journalist, critic, curator, and activist, the author or editor of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction, including On the Edge of Dream: The Women of Celtic Myth and Legend and The Echoing Green: The Garden in Myth and Memory (both from Penguin/Plume, 1998, 2000), A House White With Sorrow: A Ballad for Afghanistan (Roden Press, 1996),  The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam (Paulist Press, 2004), The Veil: Women Writers on its History, Lore, and Politics (University of California Press, 2008), Land of the Unconquerable: The Lives of Contemporary Afghan Women (University of California Press, 2011), co-edited with Ashraf Zahedi, and also with Zahedi, Children of Afghanistan: The Path to Peace (University of Texas Press, 2014), as well as The Jewel and the Ember: Love Stories of the Ancient Middle East (Smashwords E-Book Publications). She came of age in Afghanistan, founded Seeds for Afghanistan in 2001 and in 2003, the Afghanistan Relief Organization Midwife Training and Infant Care Program, later International Midwife Assistance. Her many touring exhibitions include Water, Water Everywhere: Paean to a Vanishing Resource, The Veil: Visible & Invisible Spaces, Black Velvet: The Art We Love to Hate and The Map is Not the Territory: Parallel Paths-Palestinians, Native Americans, Irish.

Shirley Temple (Black) 1928-2014

With the sad news of the passing of Shirley Temple (Black) in today’s New York Times, I thought it would be appropriate to remember some of her contributions to film costume, fashion, and popular culture.

Shirley Temple was the most famous child star of the 1930s. She made her film debut at the age of five in 1934 and by the following year she was making $1,000 a week from merchandising tie-ins alone (Cook 2004 and Ewing 1977). Mothers everywhere dressed their children in Temple-imitating clothing.

Shirley Temple Sears Ad

Temple merchandise included dresses, coats, snow suits, raincoats, toys and accessories (Cook 2004). Sears and Roebuck featured a line of Shirley Temple fashions inspired by her film costumes, including short dresses with matching panties and  bolero-style dresses, winter snow suits, hats and accessories.  As the 1935-36 Sears catalog copy stated:  “Shirley and her cute clothes have stolen everyone’s heart; no wonder every little girl wants to wear the same styles.” The earned royalties from Temple’s licensed merchandise exceeded $100,000 in 1935; and exceeded  $200,000 in 1936.

However, it was the Shirley Temple “look” that most mothers were after. Her iconic hairstyle of all-over-ringlets was imitated everywhere and is still recognized today. Her style of dress, frequently identified with toddler-hood, included simple frocks made to accentuate a toddler’s belly, with puffed sleeves and hemlines that were consistently 19 inches from the floor (Cook 2004). These were trimmed with simple and unobtrusive decorative elements, such as embroidered or appliquéd, and lace edged hemlines and collars. Interestingly, conflicting fan magazines reports suggest that Temple was both disinterested in her film costumes and insistent that they be of a consistent design.

In an issue of Hollywood from 1936, writer Sally Martin explains the challenges of costuming the child star:

One day, a long time ago when Shirley’s career was in its infancy, Rene Hubert, then 20th Century-Fox designer, was discussing Shirley’s clothes with Mrs. Temple. He made the remark that clothes for small girls should reach just to their fingertips. Shirley overheard and to this day insists that her dresses reach the specified length and not vary a sixteenth of an inch one way or the other. Costuming Shirley Temple presents a real problem to the studio designers. Accustomed to competing and excelling the world’s greatest modistes in creating styles for stars on the screen, the stylists never, before the advent of Shirley, had tackled the problem of clothes for a child star.” (Martin. 1936, 40)

1933 file photo, child actress Shirley Temple is seen in her role as "Little Miss Marker"

Yet, according to Marion Blackford, writer for Screenplay in an article that same year:

In Shirley Temple’s home, in the wardrobes and clothes-closets of her own room, there hang well over a hundred different dresses and outfits! They’re all hers. . . Shirley could go a quarter of a year wearing a different outfit every day from her own wardrobe, and never once in that length of time would she wear the same dress twice! Yet—and here’s one of the strangest things of all about this most amazing little girl in the world today!—Shirley Temple is probably the most UN-‘clothes-conscious’ child in all Hollywood. To her, clothes are just ‘part of the job.’ With stoic patience, she stands hour after hour in the studio fitting rooms, enduring the interminable putting-on-and-taking-off, squeeking faintly now and then at a mis-aimed pinthrust that punctures her chubby legs, turning this way and that, when and as bidden, co-operating with all the clothes-knowledge of a trained actress. But as for enjoying those clothes herself? – why it’s a fact that Shirley doesn’t even look at herself in the mirror when she’s trying on new things.” (33)

The article goes on to provide details from William Lambert, 20th Century-Fox’s house costume designer at the time, who “fitted  Shirley’s clothes for her when she first became a screen actress” (54):

‘I never,’ says Lambert, ‘seen an actress, of any age, so utterly uninterested in clothes as Shirley! And that, especially for a child, is unusual. From the very outset, her interest in what we were preparing for her to wear was purely perfunctory, mechanical. She’d come into the fitting room willingly enough, and she’d stand and be fitted with admirable patience, for a child. But do you think she ever took a look at herself in the mirror? NO, sir—not one glimpse!! She’d stand there in her little pink undies, with her chubby legs straight and firm. She’d let us twist her and dress her and stick pins in her. When we had the dress on, she’d still stand there, and never once look into the glass. . . Still without a look in the glass, she’d hurry back and out of the dress; would get into her own things—and make a bee-line for my drawing board and the colors I use when designing clothes. That was what she was patiently waiting for all the time. Being fitted was work—but drawing pictures was play, and that was what was on her mind. She’d grab my paints (oh, how I loved that!) and she’d draw picture after picture of Jimmy Durante. Funny part of it was, it looked like Jimmy. And she’d paint his big nose all nice and pink and then she’d be happy. Clothes?—they were forgotten. And say, let me tell you you couldn’t tell her anything about drawing, either. I’d try to make a suggestion or two. She’d just hold up her pink-nosed Jimmy Durante beside one of my style sketches. . .” (54)

The article goes on to explain, that while she may seem disinterested, she still has her opinion on her look in a film, and that she had definite preferences:

Don’t understand from Shirley’s fitting-room attitude that she doesn’t know what’s going on. Far from that! For instance: All her dresses are made 19 inches from the floor. Shirley has learned to feel the length. She knows by hanging her arms and leaning over just where the right length comes. She never has to look in a mirror—when they fit a dress, she hangs her arms and leans. ‘No—too long,’ she says. And Snip, off must come an inch or so. . . . She has one definite clothes-quirk: Everything has to match in color in whatever ensemble she’s wearing. It may make no difference to the camera, but even her socktops must match, precisely, the hue and shade of the dress she’s wearing. No sloppy work for Shirley. Everything has to be just so-so, too. IF there’s a bow on her dress, not a camera may turn on her until the ends and the loops are exactly even, to the quarter-inch.” (54)

Shirley Temple (center) in the "Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer" (1947)

Regardless, of her level of involvement in the creation of her image, Shirley Temple’s iconic style left a imprint on children’s fashion of the 1930.

In the 1940s, Temple helped to define the new “teenager” demographic, and portrayed an impressionable teenage girl in the film, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), among others. More than that, her iconic look has remained one often imitated in popular culture.

Below is an absolutely perfect video of Temple from the 1934 film, Baby Take a Bow (costumes by Royer), which exemplifies both Temple’s sartorial and film styles. Enjoy – and thank you Ms. Black for leaving with such a voluminous collection of films to enjoy:

References:

Martin, Sally. “Hollywood’s Charm School: Shirley’s Personal Wardrobe,” Hollywood, November 1936.

Blackford, Marion. ‘Miss Temple’s Best Bib and Tucker,’ Screen Play, August 1936.

Punk Style: An Interview with Monica Sklar

My colleague Monica Sklar, has just published a new book, Punk Style (available as of January 16, 2014; Bloomsbury) and I’m happy to say she agreed to an in-depth interview for Fashion Historia.* Sklar obtained her PhD in Design-Apparel Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has taught several college-level courses in dress and retailing, worked in art and design museums/galleries in multiple capacities, and has published widely on the subject of subcultural style.

The following are her answers to a few key questions to help understand the history and evolution of Punk style.

FashionHistoria: How do you define Punk style? What do you think are the key elements of Punk fashion?

Monica Sklar: Punk remains an esoteric and amorphous concept. So it is difficult to define and to categorize its components as punk or not punk. In Punk Style, I deliberately allowed interviewees and all sources to self-identify as punk, rather than coming into the project with preconceived parameters.

In the beginning, punk-styled apparel was self-made or pieced together through bricolage. It was available for purchase only through specific channels, like small boutiques and fetish retailers, ads in fanzines, or punk events. From its 1970s origins through its various present-day incarnations, punk is commonly rooted in those who are in some way disenfranchised from society. Self-identified punks may be critical of mainstream art, politics, popular culture, consumerism, lifestyles, or sexual and social mores. Punk dress was rooted in a desire to be ironic and anti-hegemonic; it reinvented mainstream styles to critique society via bricolage and appropriation.

Many elements of punk dress, such as combat boots, studded belts, and vibrantly dyed hair, have become iconic and stable in popular culture, yet symbolism and meanings have changed throughout time. Not all of those who self-identify as punk share the same perspective on sub cultural dress.

The Bromley Contingent: (Sex Pistols fans), Anti-clockwise. Debbie Juvenile, Siouxsie, Phillip Salon, Spunker Severin, Simon Barker, Soo Catwoman, Linda Ashby, Sharon Hayman (?) (via punk77.co.uk)

The stereotypical image is of a sneering youth wearing something akin to a leather motorcycle jacket, tattered black band logo T-shirt skinny-fitting bondage pants or ripped jeans, combat boots, studded or safety pin metal accessories, and vibrant body modifications such as heavy cosmetics and/or a colored Mohawk. These signifiers are rooted in fashion designs, sub cultural trends, and popular street styles that have been incorporated into punk dress since the 1970s. However, they may not tell a complete story of punk style. It would go on to include the items from hardcore and Goth and skaters and hip hop too.

When asked to describe punk dress in general, many self-identified punks interviewed for Punk Style responded with the phrase “I guess” and other qualifiers and pauses, suggesting they were trying to put themselves in the shoes of someone else looking in on the punk scene; they were trying to describe what an outsider might see. While their answers did support the idea that punk has an iconic look, they also reflected the understanding that this look is often merely a caricature, presenting only a narrow viewpoint. In contrast, they answered with confidence to the question “describe punk dress as you personally have worn it” and other related inquiries into their own punk styling.

Today, punk style has a forty-year history, with a host of influences and a myriad of characteristic pieces that make up the look, as well as flexibility to include new components. Origins of the key aspects of punk style—which include the color black; heavy accessories; boots; clothing that is tattered and manipulated; piercings; tattoos; unnatural hair colors; facial hair; band logos; and jeans, T-shirts, and hooded sweatshirts—have become fragmented and fractured through various subgenres under the punk umbrella.

The most important thing is that it’s punk by the wearers definition

FH: In terms of the history of fashion, what do you feel are the most important origins or touchstones for punk style; it’s influencers, icons, and predecessors?

Vivienne Westwood dressed as Margaret Thatcher for Tatler Magazine

Sklar: As I describe in Punk Style, New York and London in the 1970s were areas of great impact on what would become the aesthetic aspects of punk style, however it was developing in many places at the same time and has continued to evolve. In London Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren were innovators, introducing looks that would come to epitomize punk, through their boutique. Social groups, such as the Bromley Contingent, explored a host of exciting clothing styles as well. In New York, musicians like Richard Hell and the Ramones were crucial and derived their look from street styles. Tish and Snooky of Manic Panic had the first punk clothing store in the US and would go on to start their widespread line of cosmetics/hair dye. Scene leaders within geographic regions or new related movements such as hardcore, riot grrrl, and cyberpunk, for example, would change the visuals to suit new motivations and their dress would be widely copied. An increase in subcultures interrelating with punk, such as skinhead and rockabilly, brought more styles into the fold.

Punks styles’ predecessors were social, art, design and political waves including the Situationists, Lettrists, hippies, beatniks, greasers, mods, Dadaists, surrealists, and even mid century modernists, and the arts and crafts movements. Tech progressions have strongly impacted its current incarnations. Basically whoever incorporated DIY and “status quo challenging” ideas into their style could be said to have helped shape punk style.

FH: How do see Punk style manifesting now and in the future?

Sklar: Maturation and accessibility are two major benefits and complications of punk style today. Original punks of the 70s and 80s are now parents/grandparents, homeowners, leaders in their professions, though many are burned out or deceased. Yet new adolescents declare themselves punk daily, and those two groups have limited experiences in common. But, punk can be related to both of them in different ways. The style reacts over time to have new cultural relevance and individuals have changing budgets, bodies and lifestyle.

As technology has increased access to one another and to products, more people can partake in acquiring punk style. Yet, some would argue it then lacks the intimacy and commitment that once was a key factor in developing the “look.” I think the future will see more normalization of iconic punk styles such as colored hair, tartan plaids, body modifications, and new ideas coming into the fold to continue to differentiate that in-the-know punk person from the rest. Some would say that the normalization means it is watered down if it lacks shock and commentary. Others would argue that mainstream acceptance of more diverse appearances is a “win” for a battle punk was fighting against repression and conformity.

Many thanks to Monica for taking the time to answer these questions – please feel free to leave yours in the comments section below!

*Some may remember that I am a former contributor to Monica’s blog, Worn Through.

Four New Fashion Journals from Intellect (Download for Free!)

Intellect publishers has just announced that they will be publishing four new journals dedicated to the study of clothing and fashion (Clothing Cultures; Fashion, Style & Popular Culture; Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion plus, coming soon International Journal of Fashion Studies). They’ve also announced that you can download the first issue of each for free! Once you get the idea for what they each cover, be sure to check out those Calls for Papers… For more other information please email pennock@intellecbooks.com.

Clothing Cultures

Increasingly clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour. This journal embraces issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing (and dressing) us all. Download the first issue for FREE More details


Fashion, Style & Popular Culture

Edited by Joseph H. Hancock II, Fashion, Style & Popular Culture will provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in aspects of fashion and popular culture. Download the first issue for FREE More details

Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion

Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion is the first journal to exclusively focus on men’s dress. The journal provides a dedicated space for the discussion and theoretical development of men’s appearance from multiple disciplines. Download the first issue for FREE More details

 

Coming soon: International Journal of Fashion Studies
By opening up the field of fashion studies to international non-English speakers, the journal will not only shed new light on some existing key themes of debate but it will also bring to the fore issues previously unattended. More details

Tempting finds on the Fashion bookshelf…

It seems to me that the pace of publishing in the fashion history field has been growing exponentially since I left graduate school. At that time, I remember being told by a professor that fashion books were few and far between, and the best place to find them was at The Strand (an amazing used bookstore in Manhattan).

Now though, the books just keep on coming. As readers may have seen over the last few weeks, I’ve been attempting to review many of them. Primarily, these have been coffee table books like Debutantes: When Glamour Was Born, beautifully produced exhibition catalogs like Pearls and Hollywood Costume and much-needed monographs like Jean Patou. For more book reviews check out the  “Books & Resources” subject area on the site.

Of course there are a number of books that I just haven’t had a chance to properly review, and I thought it would be a good idea to mention them here, so people have more of an idea on what’s just come out:

Gilded New York: Design, Fashion & Society (November 2013) of which the Sam Roberts at The New York Times said ““Forget the 1 percent. Consider them gracious and empathetic compared with the denizens of Gilded New York during two decades of excess from 1885 to 1905. This lavishly illustrated volume illuminates the mansions, costumes and other accouterments of the people whose philanthropy helped produce the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Opera, but whose self-indulgence also gave big money a bad name.”

Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 (September 2013) An exhibition catalog that the Wall Street Journal describes as “the fascinating history of weaving techniques, raw materials and design patterns shared through links of trade between cultures in Europe, Asia, Africa and the New World. . . . Authoritative essays on export routes, textile technology and global trends in taste complement fine photographs of textiles from around the world.”

Colette’s France: Her lives, her loves (October 2013) A heavily illustrated biography, with a beautiful cover, ForeWord Reviews describes by saying “Her beauty and brilliance are captured strikingly in this artful, sensual biography.”

Amazing books in this field continue to surprise, delight, and educate — I’m looking forward to the coming year of reading. And I don’t anticipate that the pace of fashion publishing will slow down anytime soon (especially as the divide between print and digital continues. Fashion books lend themselves well to the physically printed medium — at least for now!)

Holiday Book tease: “Hollywood Costume”

*

Already called out for being “Gift-Worthy” by the Huffington Post and the Associated Press, today’s review is just a teaser for Hollywood Costume (Abrams) edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis.

Hollywood Costume is the lavishly illustrated coffee-table book and exhibition catalog from the Victoria & Albert exhibition of the same name. It frequently juxtaposes film stills with the physical costumes. The above costume was designed by Travis Banton for  Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra, 1934. The image below shows Colbert wearing the dress (and showing off much cleavage) For more on the costumes in this film, see my article at Worn Through from 2010.

Another spectacular costume featured in Hollywood Costume (along with installation shots and an essay by Sam Gatley on dressing the mannequin) is this costume for Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) in My Man Godfrey, 1936 by Travis Banton (Page 214-5, Gown and duster jacket designed by Travis Banton. The Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design Larry McQueen. Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum).

My Man Godfrey happens to be one of my favorite movies (hello, William Powell!). The image of this dress is gorgeous in this two-page spread, but seeing all those glass bugle beads in motion in the film is just absolutely stunning. The scene below features the dress, but is also a fairly important point of the plot: (pardon the ad at the beginning of the clip):

For more wonderful insights, be sure to check out the book, Hollywood Costume (Abrams) edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis.

*Page 137  The Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design Larry McQueen. Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum

More Holiday Gift Books: “Debutantes: When Glamour Was Born”

"Dresses of the early 1900s were often loosely tailored and simple with a slightly raised waistline. During the years between 1915 and the early 1920s, it wasn’t uncommon for a debutantes dress to be short. Audrey Hoffman, mother of Audrey Clinton, in her coming out dress made of silk, satin, and lace. New York, 1915."

For those who love all things fabulous, there is nothing quite like a debutante ball gown to sweep you off your feet. Debutantes: When Glamour was Born by Diana Oswald (Rizzoli International) offers a decadent peek inside the world of the debutant.

Debutantes: When Glamour was Born includes 150 photographs by renowned fashion photographers such as Horst P. Horst, Bill Cunningham, Cecil Beaton and Toni Frissell (among others), as well as reprinted society pages, documenting high fashion worn by society women in both Europe and the United States during the 20th century. It makes special use of previously unpublished pictures from personal archives of several debutantes (including Lavinia Baker and Tricia Nixon, among others). Gowns by the likes of Oscar de la Renta (who also wrote the foreword), along with Norman Norell, Norman Hartnell, Hattie Carnegie, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Mainbocher, and Madeline Vionnet, among other un-credited designers are included.

According to the introduction by David Patrick Columbia, American’s adopted the practice of presenting a young lady into society (a key part of match-making for the wealthy) from Europeans in the 19th century. Surprisingly, American’s had stricter rules than did their British and French counter-parts. Columbia’s introduction goes on to highlight the role of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York Cotillions, present pages of Town & Country, and provide details of society parties for Doris Duke, Barbara Hutton, and Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy). It is a brief though sweeping overview (that could use some source citation).

"A master at creating shapes and silhouettes, Dior was known and sometimes even criticized or using over abundant amounts of fabric for just one dress. Chicago debutante Joan peterkin stuns in a strapless tulle and white satin Dior with white satin gloves. Chicago, 1949. Photo by Horst P. Horst."

The remaining five chapters of the book are photographic selections with detailed captions. Chapters are grouped thematically and titled: A Fine Elegance; Celebutantes; Glitter and The Dress; The Grandiose; and Summer Soirées. Photos are captioned with tid-bits of interesting information on the wearer and date, and sometimes the designers is mentioned and described. Example: “Debutante Tess D’Englanger wears a white organdy gown by Irene, 1952. Irene began her career as a costume designer and catered to both high society and Hollywood royalty.” (34)

The gowns in this book are beautiful, but  I think each chapter could have benefited from a short (two-page) introduction to provide better context and organization. That said, Debutantes: When Glamour was Born does provide photographic access to a very private world of the rich and famous with previously unpublished material, that could be useful to collections housing debutante gowns. It will also most certainly appeal to those looking for inspiration for formal gowns from history, or to add a bit of glamour to the coffee table of the fashion enthusiast.

Fore more on the book, see the New York Review of Books.

Fashion Factoid: Veronica Lake’s Hair

Known for her ‘peek-a-book’ hairstyle – it became a bit of a problem during World War II: “In the early 1940s, US government officials asked Lake to wear her hair up for the duration of WWII: it seems that too many women working in factories were imitating her famous “peek-a-boo bang” and getting their hair caught in assembly-line machinery.” (Turner Classic Movies)

Here’s a video making the point:

Holiday gift books (Part 2): “Pearls”

New from Abrams/V&A in time for holiday gift giving, is Pearls by jewelry historian Beatriz Chandour-Sampson and Hubert Bari, curator at the Qatar Museum authority. Meant to accompany the exhibition of the same name (on view through January 2014), this survey of pearl jewelry spans both time and the globe: from the Byzantine Empire to Jackie Kennedy to the present day.

Ceremonial Glove, Palermo, Sicily, before 1220: Red Velvet, gold, enamel, niello, pearls, amethysts, garnets, rubies, sapphires, spinels. Possibly for the coronation of Frederick II of the Staufer dynasty, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weitliche Schatzkammer, Vienna

Beautifully illustrated, Pearls utilizes the Victoria & Albert and other museum collections to good effect. The text is both sweeping and detailed, which helps keep this volume petite by packed with information. Eight chapters (or essays) detail the global history and importance of pearls as jewelry.

Covering both its natural (and unnatural) history, as well as their historical context the chapters are basically chronological. While the book primarily covers the history of pearls in the western world,  the introduction, first, and concluding chapters explore the global aspects of pearls: their trade, their creation, and their particular role in eastern cultures.

Chrysanthemum Brooch, Tiffany & Co, New York, c1904, Gold, platinum, diamonds, pearls. The pearls are from Mississippi, Tiffany & Co Archives.

Not surprisingly, I’m interested in the twentieth century section of the book, and it does not disappoint in its representation of Belle Epoch, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco examples from makers and designers such as Cartier, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Tiffany, and the like. Photographs of royalty, socialites, film stars, and political figures pepper the pages of this chapter, providing context to significant pieces.

All chapters utilize a wide range of museum collections, high quality images, and very well written text making Pearls a marvelous gift for jewelry enthusiasts and historians alike.

Icon with Virgin and Child, Ivan Nikolaev Mnekin, Moscow, 1886. Gilded Silver, oil mainting on metal, enamel, freshwater pearls. Cyrillic maker's mark 'iM'" the pearls are from Russia. Qatar Museums Authority, Doha

CSA tour of “Wear to Party” in Ventura, CA

Balenciaga taffeta gown with lace trim, 1955 (Kyoto Costume Institute)

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the Costume Society of America program including a tour of “Wear to Party” at the Museum of Ventura County, as well as the tour of Lotusland with a lecture on Ganna Walska (the Polish opera singer) and the costumes designed for her by Erte.

I’m going to go into too much detail (CSA Members can look forward to a writeup in our Spring 2014 newsletter of the event). However, I do want to share a few photos from the tour of “Wear to Party” – which was fabulous, informative, and fun.

“Wear to Party” is an exhibit focused on the clothing worn while social entertaining in Ventura County, including beach parties, barbeques, dinner dances, and of the prom attended by local residents. Our tour guide was the volunteer curator (and former Smithsonian curator), Shelly Foote – whose knowledge seems endless. My favorites from the exhibit include several 1930s dresses: a garden party dress with a jellyfish print, a black taffeta evening gown with a dramatic back, and a black velvet gown with green beaded sleeves. However, the pink Balenciaga-esque prom dress was also a favorite. See more below.