Apr 24, 2012
Friends, do names like Adrian, Helen Rose, Irene, Jean Louis and Travilla start your blood pumping faster? Well you better sit down, because have I got the book for you! It's California Couture by Maureen Reilly, published by Schiffer in 2000. It was another birthday present to myself (the best kind) and I love it.
California Couture is written primarily for vintage clothing collectors and fashion designers, so it's full of all kinds of fascinating details you might not find in more mainstream coffee table books about vintage fashion. It is bursting with vintage ads, photos of clothing design details, film stills, original sketches, and so much more. (Personally I'm less enthusiastic about many museum exhibit fashion books that show clothes only on mannequins. I want to see the original styling and presentation, i.e., context.) The text here is well-organized and well-written, goes into great depth, and includes interviews with designers and even original models like Peggy Moffitt.
While I was familiar with the famous Hollywood designers included here, I was less aware of some of the California-based designers (many of whom got their start in Hollywood) and companies featured here, like Rudi Gernreich (huge chaper on him), James Galanos, and the Lilli Ann company (which has a fascinating history). I could spend a week reading all 250 glossy pages and ogling the many hundreds of photos. And I probably will!
The one thing I don't love about the book is that Reilly has chosen an assortment of vintage collectors and shop owners to model some of these original fashions, and the results look amateurish when juxtaposed against original images. But I'm more of a stickler than most. It also includes price ranges for collectors, but I assume those would be out of date by now.
You can blow up the index by clicking on the pic below. You can find more images from California Couture here. You can also find used copies of this book at excellent prices you-know-where.
Do you have a favorite vintage fashion book you'd recommend to others, maybe one that has influenced your personal style or sewing choices? Do tell!
Have a great day, everybody!