Friday, December 23, 2011

Little Black Dress by Alison Marie Behnke

To look at me, one would believe I have no interest in fashion. I would normally agree but there is something about clothing from another time that just captivates me. I drooled and dreamed my way through the 60 some pages of Little Black Dress.
If I had to guess, I would say this is juvenile non-fiction based on the length of this book but Alison Marie Behnke does not dumb down this information. I was a little disappointed to find there was no pronunciation guide at the end. So many designers and people of influence had really hard names.
The book is an easy to read book but there is a ton of information about fashion, politics and history. It’s a great introduction into fashion of the 1930s through 1950s. I’m still reeling. Right after I finished the book, I started checking out the recommended websites. I love looking at Elsa Shiaparelli’s designs at the Philadelphia Museum. I have to say it makes me want to design clothing and, to me, that’s the mark of a great piece of non-fiction – the desire to learn more or to experiment on your own.
This book inspired me but it also taught me. There were so many influences in fashion during those eras that I had never thought about. There was The Great Depression, World War II and television. For the first time, television was a major influence on how people dressed. Movies had often inspired high fashion but television shows offered a more every day fashion with shows like I Love Lucy and The Donna Reed Show.
With World War II, America was able to step up in fashion design. New York was able to compete with Europe which was still recovering from the war. World War II influenced a lot of fashion. Americans were introduced to Hawaiian shirts and capris. Because of the fabric shortage of that time, clothing got shorter and opened the door to smaller bathing suits and eventually the Bikini.
Fashion may not be your thing but this book is so much more than clothing. It’s history and how fashion played a part. Every culture is identified by its clothing. History is no exception. Take the time to pick up this book and you’ll be amazed.

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