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Tactile and visual booky book delight

FashionDorling Kindersley, with this huge tome, have brought home the fact that some books will always need to be real, and would lose, hugely, if digitised.

For a start, opening this book flat so that you can see the beautiful pictures displayed across two pages gives a width of 21 inches. Some awkward laptop that would be! And for full enjoyment, the two page spread is essential – for example, to see the many variations on the bustle between its early 1880’s development to the exaggerations at the end of the decade. This is designed, clearly, as a BOOK, from its deliciously tactile front cover, with an alluringly textured ball gown which invites stroking, to the satisfyingly thick glossy pages (more stroking, plus some sniffing) and the sheer delight of these beautiful, lovingly constructed drawings and photographs.


It IS a massive tome (not for reading in bed unless you have done your biceps and triceps exercises – in fact, holding the book could BE those exercises!) This is a book to be lovingly opened and laid flat on the coffee table, having banished any dangerous cups containing liquids or plates containing food first of all, having put on your white gloves so that you can indulge the irresistible desire to stroke the beautiful fabric texture suggesting drawings. If only they could have included little snippets of fabric for each of the 1000s of pictures, my joy would have had me whimpering and swooning with pleasure. As it is, the Oohs and Ahs as each page is turned are annoyingly loud!

This is not a cover to cover read – it is the book equivalent of the most sumptuous and decadent and richly satisfying box of organic dark chocolates with various exotic alcoholic flavourings (my idea of heaven) The rich flavours are best properly appreciated in small doses. This takes you from around 500,000 years BCE, where the fashionista, or at least, the hypothermic, ancestor was wrapping his or her body in an animal hide – so must have, for this millennium, the buffalo sarong , tied with a simply DIVINE little strip of matching buffalo hide – right up to 2012. Such a sweep of history is far too overwhelming for sequential cover to cover absorption – and benefits the random savouring of pages. Or, for the truly serious, the extremely slow sequential perusal, with proper time for savour and digestion of each drawing, photograph and piece of text.

Evening glamour

An illustrated glossary, an index, and a mini-precis of the development of female body silhouettes and shapers, bags, hats, shoes and the like, enable the reader to do both close up detail on a particular facet, and to take the long view.

Both men’s and women’s fashions are covered, and each gorgeous, utterly gorgeous line drawing or photo comes with an interesting, amusing, or informative bit of text, which often sets each development back to its place in the wider history of fashion.

If you are at all interested as a fashion observer, fashion producer, or simply as a peacock who enjoys playing with the way you drape, hide and show off your body, and observes with pleasure how other people do the same, I guarantee you will drivel and drool (wear a little drivel and drool mouth guard to avoid marking the pages of your gorgeous book) over this sumptuous feast of a fashion treasure trove.

I was lucky enough to receive this as an ARC from Amazon Vine UK
Fashion Amazon UK
Fashion Amazon USA

The Stateside book IS the same, just with a different subtitle and jacket. I do like the USA cover, but the UK one is textured, giving a special tactile frisson of delight, whilst persuading the reader she should be wearing debutante elbow length gloves, and a divine little fascinator!