The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion

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Author(s): 
Release Date: 
October 6, 2014
Publisher/Imprint: 
phaidon
Pages: 
208
Reviewed by: 

“Pass on this particular book, and save your money! If you are a novice to the world of fashion there are far better selections with superb choices, cohesive presentations, and more useful information.”

Two thoughts: Just because you stand in a garage you will not become a car. And always consider the source. If you wish to extrapolate the former you might say that standing in your closet doesn’t make you a designer or a critic of fashion.

There have been countless pictorial volumes with varying degrees of accompanying descriptions that detail the 25, 50, or 100, most iconic dresses of fashion. But the most successful of these volumes and the most interesting are the ones that make the choices not based on personal tastes but on astute observation.

It is essential in selecting a book concentrating on a specific subject that you look at the author and make sure he or she is well suited to offer a discourse on said subject, i.e. if you want to read about judicial law you select a book by Ruth Bader Ginsberg and not Michelle Bachmann and similarly you would opt for a fashion book written by the likes of Harold Koda or Grace Coddington rather than one penned by Shakira or Venus Williams. Ms. Hess proves herself to be a bit sophomoric as well as ill suited to the topic and the task.

If you want to discuss fashion then learn the language or have someone who actually understands fashion or is fluent in fashion proof your work. And cutesy commentary does not count as fact supporting contention.

And if you are going to make choices that have been repeatedly referenced, such as Audrey Hepburn’s black Breakfast at Tiffany gown, you might want to check the silhouette that actually represents the gown in question and not the one you think it is or thought it is. Yes, the dress was originally offered in three versions to the studio, but the one that made the final cut was not a godet flared bottom but a straight cut and it was not worn with “strands” of pearls but with a bib or nested mutlistrand necklace of pearls with large ornate clasp.

As well, there are issues with the actual dresses that were selected in the 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion. To say that some of them are arcane and far from memorable or iconic in any way other than in the author’s mind would be an exercise in understatement.

And when there appears to be no throughline, no rhyme or reason binding the contents of the book together the final result is a slipshod collection. Having been in the fashion business for over 40 years and possessing an excellent memory this reviewer finds most of the choices akin to a fashion collection review that states “it was fierce!” Who cares what YOU think? A book like this needs to be based on fact with substantial supporting information and not so much about what a mere spectator of fashion personally relates to.

Lastly, it must be noted that the illustrations themselves are a bit cartoonish rather than explanatory. The fact that dresses are supposedly shown on wearers weakly resembling the originals does not bolster the way these choices ought to be presented nor why these in particular for there are many dresses that resemble each other. Then of course there are the absurd divisions or chapters of the book that one supposes are a device to set this book apart from its predecessors but actually appear willy-nilly and for the purposes of formatting rather than conscious divisions of relevant content.

If you are a fashion aficionado you will be offended and possibly amused by the array of dresses selected. Pass on this particular book, and save your money! If you are a novice to the world of fashion there are far better selections with superb choices, cohesive presentations, and more useful information.