While I am certainly no fashion expert, I do have a cursory understanding of fashion to understand that there are some dress styles that undoubtedly revolutionized how women dressed, be it the 1947 Christian Dior “New Look”, the miniskirt, Jackie-O’s sense of style or Chanel’s forward thinking business attire. However, I never imagined that this diversity ranged across fifty different styles of dress.
Sadly, I feel one of this book’s first flaws is its misleading title. A large number of the featured styles seem to exist in a world entirely of their own. A few of the entries I seriously doubt are known to anyone outside of the immensely tight inner fashion circle. Perhaps relabeling this book as the “fashion world” rather than just the world in general would be more hopeful to readers beyond fashion students.
While the book is well constructed and embossed with crisp, sharp photographs, much of the accompanying text appears to be an afterthought. Some entries provide interesting context for why certain styles altered the way women dressed but very few do this in detail. Far too much telling, rather than showing, is done in this book.
It is true that this coffee table book is more geared towards casual readers who want to see the pretty pictures, it is a bit insulting to see typos and editorial errors abound alongside last minute or inconsequential text. More substance would make this book more of an enjoyable, or at least informative, read.
Nevertheless, as I’ve said before, this book is far more interested at examining the effects of certain fashions on the world of designers rather than customers. I feel the book works best as a form of escapism, mental role playing or princess fantasy, rather than an engaging and educational text. If so, it succeeds wonderfully. Still, there are missed opportunities here to allow the reader to connect the clothing of everyday to the clothing on the runway. There is already a vast chasm existing between these two worlds and this tome does little to help bridge that disconnect.
Fifty Dresses That Changed the World
by London’s Design Museum