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Apr 24, 2012

My new favorite vintage fashion book!



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  It also includes price ranges for collectors, but I assume those would be out of date by now.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!

18 comments:

  1. This book looks AMAZING. What an excellent gift. :)

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  2. Looks so interesting! I've been meaning to get over to the library and check out the vintage fashion-related books (you've inspired me). I have a small collection myself, but it's just that: small. Might I suggest you do a round-up of your all-time favorite vintage fashion books?

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  3. mmmh, Peter, did you change anything with your pictures, upload them from a different source or anything? I've noticed this before, yesterday, that on my computer they don't show and initially thought it had something to do with the internet connection or my laptop ect, but today it's the same and it's only your blog. Just wondering...

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  4. Looks like I'm gaining another book....looks like it's AMAZING! Thanks for the info...happy reading!

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    1. Just ordered mine from Amazon...I checked eBay as well and they were pretty pricey on the bay. Amazon, for under $30. yay! I can't wait to get it!

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  5. I love those beautiful details clothes had in that era, in fact, many other eras than today where we slap everything together as fast as possible.

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  6. Wow! This looks interesting! Love a good vintage fashion book and even own a couple. I'm not really into vintage-sewing myself (don't feel comfortable in big dresses), but recently I've found myself more and more attracted to 60's A-line dresses (or at least the contemporary interpretations). I've already made a brown/lurex striped one and cut another one in green. <3 Thanks for yet another interesting post! :-)

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  7. Wow this looks like a great book for inspiration.

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  8. Amazon should give you a commission. I bought one too!

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  9. It looks like a great book. In fact, I've been buying vintage magazines lately, also for the allure of seeing all those great styles in context.

    And I know what you mean about today's people modeling vintage pieces... I just watched 'Christian Dior: the man behind the myth' and I really didn't like how they let present-day models show iconic Dior looks from the late 40's and 50's (including the famous 'Bar' suit). These girls may strutt their stuff for a living but they just don't have the shape for the classic Dior styles.

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    1. I'm not familiar with that Dior documentary and it doesn't have any Amazon reviews. Would you recommend it?

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  10. Great suggestion Peter! I love fashion books! I have it now in my list. First I will try to find here in EU.

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  11. Wow what a great book! Is Bonnie Cashin in it? She started out in CA and then moved to NYC in the early 60's.

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    1. Bonnie's in there, Phyllis, though she doesn't get a chapter all her own.

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  12. That looks like a lovely book! I'll have to see if the library has it.

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  13. Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor. I love this book, Ann's story, and am trying to duplicate many of her beautiful looks.

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    1. That's a new one for me -- must explore!

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  14. I just got this from Amazon. Good suggestion. It's lovely.

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