This is not much more than a thumbnail sketch of women's fashions which in the 20th century became less and less haute couture as ladies were emancipated from tight corsets, hobble skirts and the myriad of petticoats which dominated the 19th century. The story of ready-to-wear parallels the rise of functional, simple streamlined clothing -- the first articles of mass production were, appropriately enough, tailored suits and shirtwaists which began to appear for working women in the 1890's. Ley mentions the trend-setting designers of each decade from Paul Poiret who was the first to create his own ""look"" to Coco Chanel, St. Laurent and such contemporary and youth-oriented stylists as Mary Quant and Betsey Johnson. certain items -- the sack dress, the midi, hot pants -- have been rejected by most women despite all the propaganda the fashion industry could muster. You may doubt that Jacqueline Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot had quite the effect on dress that Ley thinks they did. The author also tosses in a few words here and there about the growth of the ILGWU and its effect on clothes for the masses. Unfortunately the writing is nowhere near as stylish as the subject matter; in fact it's dowdy and flat. More an inventory of necklines and hemlines than a portrait of a highly glamorous and competitive industry.