A sumptuous survey of vintage fashion and couture from the 1910s to today.
Vintage Fashion and Couture: From Poiret to McQueen tells the story of fashion through the work of its key design talents and the memorable women who have worn their designs. It explores designers' careers through a dazzling range of clothes and accessories, and explains what makes each item so desirable and why it was so important for the fashion world. It describes the designers' role among their contemporaries, and their influence on the world of fashion.
The author, a world-renowned expert in vintage fashion, organizes the book by decade with each chapter focusing on a number of important designers and the most influential style icons. Fashion pieces are shown in color photographs with descriptive captions that include the current vintage price range, making it a practical resource for vintage shoppers.
The designers and style icons in the book are:
The final section, Buying Vintage, is an inside look in which the author, a world leader in vintage fashion, reveals how and where to buy the best vintage pieces, as well as how to spot fakes and forgeries.
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Kerry Taylor was one of the youngest auctioneers in Sotheby's history, and is still Textile Consultant to Sotheby's and regularly assists major museums with valuations. In 2007, the Guardian voted her one of their 'women of the year'. She has been profiled in British Vogue and The New York Times.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
My love of fashion began early -- I still possess a 1930s sequined capelet for which I saved up my pocket money. I remember the wonder of the first flapper dress I handled that came into Sotheby's for valuation in 1979, how the sequins caught the light, and the sheer weight of the beadwork. It seemed to capture a lost moment in time. I've handled hundreds of them over the years but I still find them mesmerizing, especially if they carry a couture label hidden down a side seam. I have had the pleasure of handling antique pieces by Charles Frederick Worth right the way through to cutting-edge 21st-century examples by Junya Watanabe and everything in between. I have been privileged to handle fabulous single-owner collections, including the wardrobes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Honourable Daphne Guinness, Jerry Hall, and Marie Helvin as well as historically important pieces belonging to Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ava Gardner. But it's the garments themselves, even without these wonderful provenances, that are so special.
I have not been able to include examples by every major designer in this book and I apologize for that in advance. However, I have tried to give an impression of the market as a whole and where possible have used actual examples that I have sold at auction.
What is vintage?
For me, vintage is a garment that possesses age, beauty, and great design. So much that is described as "vintage" is just second-hand clothing and the vintage tag just an excuse for overcharging. "Couture" is another word recklessly bandied about and sometimes incorrectly applied by vintage dealers to designer-labelled ready-to-wear. Haute couture is the highest form of fashion excellence in its design, fabric, and execution (with hand-finished internal seams).
The demise of haute couture in the 21st century
Yves Saint Laurent produced his last couture collection in 2002 and Valentino in 2008. Today Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Raf Simons for Dior, and Jean Paul Gaultier retain their couture lines, but the number of clients willing to pay couture prices is relatively small compared to the 1950s when couture was more affordable and more widely worn. As so little haute couture is now made and the skills so prized for centuries are being eroded and lost, vintage haute couture pieces from the first half of the 20th century, made from the finest fabrics with hand-finishing and adornments, are even more prized. There is a finite supply of early pieces, yet the number of collectors continues to grow. As the rarity of these masterpieces increases year on year, their prices also escalate. Vintage couture can only grow in importance as the early reference pieces of the 20th century become increasingly harder to find.
Who buys vintage?
The market for good vintage fashion has grown rapidly since the early 2000s. There have always been serious collectors who see vintage fashion as an art and an investment but these are relatively small in number. The market increase is largely due to those who wish to buy to wear. Vintage fashion is good value, generally good quality, and unusual compared to what one finds in retail shops. Kate Moss and Hollywood starlets wearing vintage on the red carpet have also fuelled demand.
Fashion exhibitions attract crowds and raise much-needed museum funds, and major ones can often cause a spike in price for a related designer or period. Fashion houses themselves are eager to acquire examples of their heritage, not only as a record of their history but to add prestige to their brand.
Vintage as a design source
Contemporary designers, sometimes consciously or unconsciously, take inspiration from vintage and reinterpret historic looks. Since the 1990s there hasn't really been a single overriding "look" and recent trends such as hippy boho-chic, eighties power-shoulders, and twenties beaded dresses have incorporated vintage elements.
In the 1950s a couturier had just two couture shows per year, albeit with several hundred models in each. In contrast, the modern designer has to cope with two ready-to-wear lines, pre-collections, resort collections, and accessory lines. Some simultaneously design men's as well as women's lines.
This relentless quest for new ideas often leads designers to vintage for inspiration -- for a closure, a sleeve shape, or a clever dress construction. A band of couture beading or fragment of embroidery might trigger a new theme or design that is reinterpreted in a fresh, contemporary manner. Occasionally, an entire garment has been copied and the modern designer label added. Thankfully this is the exception rather than the rule.
In pursuit of vintage
Even today I meet clients who have discovered a valuable couture treasure at a car boot sale or a vintage market. This book highlights some of these treasures including the Chanel 1928 printed lace dress that was bought as a bundle in a carrier bag for 150 pounds (240 dollars; page 39) and the Schiaparelli dress that was rescued from a moth-infested trunk.
One of my greatest pleasures is rummaging through a collection of clothes, discovering a label hidden inside a dress, or recognizing a design from an archive photograph or a couture piece from its construction and finish. I have made some of my most incredible discoveries in trunks left forgotten in attics, and today many of these finds are now in museums and important private collections the world over. It gives me great pleasure to see them displayed in all their glory and to know that I played a part in rescuing them.
A note on price estimates
Throughout the book, I have included value codes to give an idea of what different pieces are currently worth. Please consult page 224 for further details.
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