Book review: Wearable Vintage Fashion

Wearable Vintage Fashion

Although most of my reading these days is done on my trusty Kindle, I still have a penchant for illustrated coffee-table type books, particularly those about clothes. It’s hard/dull to read about fashion without colour images – as good as Amazon’s e-ink technology likes to think it is.  So, presenting my latest purchase, Wearable Vintage Fashion by Jo Waterhouse and Clare Bridge (owners of a vintage clothes shop Second Hand Rose), just out in the UK.

What attracted me to this book?  Its blurb promises it is an ‘insider’s guide’ to ‘recreat[ing] the looks of each decade in a new and fun format.’  Particularly, it makes it quite clear that the book is packed with illustrations – and as such the promise is of something enjoyable to dip in and out of while hopefully learning about past fashions.

On the whole, I’m happy that the book is what I wanted it to be. My favourite aspect of the book is the different ‘Look Book’ sections which tackle everyday looks such as ‘Eveningwear’ or ‘Daywear’ and offer double-page spreads of beautiful vintage (and a few reproduction) pieces. These give a really good idea of styles, materials and colours across the decades.

Split into decades starting from the 1920s, up to the 1980s, each section starts with an introduction and then a couple of pages of broader description of typical styles of clothes from the period, like this one for 70s maxi dresses.

I also like the ‘Get the Look’ sections that feature old photographs as inspiration for creating similar outfits and to describe more about the styles from the era, however some of the photographs could have been blown up a bit larger to make the most of them.

The only thing I’m not so sure about are the ‘Icons’ spreads, where the authors use a ‘fashion icon’ who represents a particular look from the decade and tell you how to dress in the same way.  These parts are informative on how to exactly recreate the looks, but I’m not sure about the choices for the icons!  For example, this one for the 40s, Carmen Miranda. Do many people want to look like this, unless for a fancy-dress party..? This is perhaps the intention, but I’d have personally preferred something more realistic from a ‘wearable’ fashion book.

It’s also worth noting that the photographs of the models in these sections aren’t as high quality as the images of the clothes – although this might not bother those who don’t work in publishing like me!

The second part of the book is dedicated to ‘Vintage Street Fashion’ and features lots of images of people today, often bloggers, who incorporate elements of vintage looks into their own styles.  This ranges from those who fully immerse themselves in period dress to those who mix vintage with modern.  I think it’s a nice touch to make the book more personal and I enjoyed reading about how other people ‘do it,’ but again the image quality is quite inconsistent so you’ll need to overlook this!  I was pleased to see my favourite blogger has a whole double-page to herself.

Wearable Vintage Fashion will be in prime position on my bedside table for a little while yet – I’ll definitely return to it, particularly to gaze at those stunning ‘Look Book’ spreads.


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