What's the difference between ''vintage" fashion, and just a pile of old clothes? According to author Kerry Taylor, it's a matter of quality, rarity and something less tangible––enduring artistry. She should know: she's a costume specialist who started her career as an auctioneer at Sotheby's (where she still provides service as a textile consultant), and now oversees the purveyance of finely-curated vintage fashion through her namesake sales, Kerry Taylor Auctions. Appropriately enough, her latest book, Vintage Fashion and Couture: From Poiret to McQueen (Firefly), serves as a well-rounded introduction to both the passions and the practical aspects of shopping for vintage garments.
|Christian Dior "Jean-Pierre Grédy" cocktail ensemble, 1952: fuchsia silk chiffon with fichu neckline over black taffeta skirt. |
Photograph: Condé Nast Archive/Corbis
|Paul Poiret orientalist dress of bronze lamé, c. 1922. |
Photograph: Kerry Taylor Auctions
Taylor looks at both the tradition of haute couture––hand sewn, made-to-order finery produced mainly in Paris––and high-end ready-to-wear, including the work of designers like Azzedine Alaïa and Alexander McQueen. It's not an exhaustive resource (Taylor says as much herself), but it does offer page after page of entertaining and informative snippets, for both casual readers and experts alike. And while it zips rather quickly through a simplified 20th-century timeline, it at least provides lots of fun examples of distinctive garments from almost every era. This aspect alone makes the book worth owning––it invites you to sit down and enjoy a long-running fashion show, featuring some of the most remarkable clothes of the last 100 years, along with the designers who made them and, of course, the fashionable women who wore them.
|Daphne Guinness at Alexander McQueen's memorial service.|
Photograph by Mark Stewart/Camera Press