IN FASHION: Dress in the Twentieth Century by Prudence Glynn

IN FASHION: Dress in the Twentieth Century

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One part true chic, three parts thrift-shop clutter, and, for most tastes, altogether too British. At the outset, Glynn knowingly traces the fashion-leadership line from Paul Poiret, ""the first designer to be a personality rather than a servant,"" through the pop heroes of the Seventies whose initialed products make women look ""like perambulating billboards."" She takes note of the 1969 midi crisis, which triggered women's rebellion from the dictates of fashion; observes that the ""true greatness of a designer lies. . . in his ability to cut and shape materials. . . in a radical way,"" not merely in introducing a new silhouette; and remarks that ""there is only room for one talent at a time, however many there may be picking up the right vibes."" But succeeding chapters are a jumble of piquant curiosa (merchant-prince Stanley Marcus patriotically froze U.S. fashion in World War II), fairly obvious socio-cultural observations (the influence of films and rock), assorted shibboleths (American fashion-slavery, the crush at Paris openings), some pure nonsense (animals were protected before ""hapless redskins""), and much attention to the wardrobe of the Royal Family and specifically why ""royal dress appears to be stuck in the 1950s."" British designers are also dealt with out of proportion to their worldwide importance, but the book's prime failing is a messiness (unselectivity, repetition, disorganization) that permits Jackie Kennedy's white gloves and Rudi Gernreich's topless bathing suit to swamp Glynn's sound comments on the special merits of, say, Laura Ashley and Clare McCardell.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press