I finally understand the holiday procrastinators. I spent the better part of yesterday morning decorating mini trees and making my living room and dining table look as if Christmas is actually happening. It’s not that I am a bah humbug, I just seem to have been blessed with a very busy schedule this season and fell extremely behind. I was even searching into the wee hours for those last few little gifts to cap off the list of presents.
So if you are still searching for that final gift or two, let me suggest some of the amazing fashion related tome’s that have hit the book shelves just in time for the fashion lover on your gift list.
“Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” (The Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press), edited by Gloria Groom, is designed to go with a major exhibition of paintings in France and the U.S., which is coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on Feb. 26. It explores the topic of fashion with essays of 140 impressionist-era works of art, in which 15 scholars in a variety of disciplines examine them in view of the rise of the department store, new ways of designing clothes and social and technological changes that led to the democratization of fashion.
“The Color Revolution” (The M.I.T. Press) by Regina Lee Blaszczyk reveals the role of color consultants, or color engineers, in creating the colors of everything from wallpaper to cars to clothes, from 1850 — with the invention of mauve — to 1970. Color forecasting played a role beginning in the Twenties, when General Motors created a bright blue car to compete with Ford’s black model T, and, later, when housewares began turning up in a range of vibrant hues.
Shoes, glorious shoes! Extreme high heels are the name of the game in “Shoegasm” (Race Point Publishing), by Clare Anthony, which showcases exotic footwear, including a pair of shoes by Masaya Kushino with full-length peacock feathers exploding at the back, Alberto Guardiani’s lipstick-heel one with Swarovski Elements and another with animal legs instead of heels by Kobi Levi. It has a preface by Manolo Blahnik.
Alexander McQueen’s collections — from “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims,” his graduate collection from Central Saint Martins in 1992, to “Plato’s Atlantis,” the last presentation before his death — showcased his fascinations and obsessions, along with his beautiful, intricate and often poetic clothes. Now they are all celebrated in a new book, “Alexander McQueen: Evolution” (Race Point Publishing), by Katherine Gleason. Each collection had its own narrative, and often dynamic themes, including “Widows of Culloden,” in which a hologram of Kate Moss was at center stage, another with models walking through water and one with models playing pieces in a chess game.
There’s a new book about Audrey Hepburn in town, and it’s called “Audrey: The 60s” (It/HarperCollins), by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt, which showcases the actress and fashion icon’s influential style during that decade. It begins, naturally, with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” in 1961, with Hepburn’s long black dress, pearls, upswept hair and cigarette in a long holder, and in “My Fair Lady,” in 1964, in Cecil Beaton’s lavish costumes, especially the black-and-white beauty he conjured up with the big tip-tilted hat, for Ascot or flowering from a bouquet of a dress by Yves Saint Laurent. Then there’s “Two for the Road,” in 1967, with those Space Age shield glasses and the PVC jacket.
Hollywood holds an endless fascination for many, and so do its costumes. Now there’s a new book, “Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration” (Harper Design/HarperCollins), by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who is a costume designer and professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. The book features a wealth of drawings from Tinseltown’s golden age and more recent years. “Top Hat,” “Anything Goes,” “Gone With the Wind” and “Cabaret” are some of the films for which these sketches were created, by designers from Travis Banton, Orry-Kelly and Bonnie Cashin to Dorothy Jeakins, Walter Plunkett and Ann Roth. Many of these sketches have never been seen before.