Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Fashion in Photographs, 1860-1880 by Miles Lambert
This book was published in 1991, and alas is no longer in print. (One of the few problems I have with Batsford is that their publications never seem to stay in print for long.) However if you can find a copy of it secondhand, I would recommend it.
Its contents are as stated on the cover - fashions as they appear in photographs from 1860 to 1880. The book draws on the National Portrait Gallery in London as its source, so the pictures are heavily biased toward the rich and the famous - but then again, so are most histories of fashion. This one at least gives the reader some idea how the clothes of the era actually looked when worn, rather than how they appeared in idealised fashion plates. (But watch out for re-touched photographs - people tampered with images long before the invention of Photoshop!)
The book is divided by decade, and further subdivided into "Men", "Women" and "Groups". Each photograph has a lengthy caption that tells you something about the sitters, and describes the clothes they are wearing. The author quotes extensively from contemporary periodicals in order to demonstrate how the fashion advice of the era translated into actual garments.
I've just one bone to pick - the book seems to be slanted toward the 1860s, with much more space and many more examples being given to the former decade than the latter. Either this bias is built into the National Portrait Gallery's collections, or Mr Lambert was more interested in the 1860s than the 1870s. Whatever the reason, it gives Fashion in Photographs a lopsided feel, and under-represents an interesting era in dress.
Published: London: Batsford, 1991.
ISBN 07134 6392 9