I own a few pricey books, but none this expensive. If I could choose to be a “type” of a fashion writer, I would be Valerie Steele, who is currently a Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. (If you remember, she quoted me in her Daphne Guinness book.) I’m at my happiest when I’m geeking out over fashion history. No front row at whatever fashion week will ever compare to being able to search through the archives of Les Arts Décoratifs and compare stitching practices between centuries.
Callot Soeurs, 1908
Steele’s new The Impossible Collection of Fashion coffee table book has a fairly straight concept: 100 of the most iconic dresses of the 20th century. Her selections are both expected and unexpected. I love that she starts with Callot Soeurs, four sister couturiers at the turn of the century that never seem to get the credit they deserve.
Jean Patou, 1925
Gabrielle Chanel, 1925
The book also starts with one of my favourite quotes: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” It’s a quote by Coco Chanel, which was masterfully repeated by Sigourney Weaver in one of my all time (and I mean ALL TIME) favourite movies, Working Girl.
Christian Dior, 1947
André Courrèges, 1968
Yves Saint Laurent, 1970
Alexander McQueen, 1996
Junya Watanabe, 2000
Hussein Chalayan, 2000
I love books like this that focus on one thing, without the distractions of fancy or celebrity photography. The emphasis is on the dress, and its evolution during the century. It sure is pretty, although I’m not sure why they couldn’t make it more economical.
You think they’ll do a softcover eventually? Hope so.
$695 at Assouline.