Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style

Image of Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style
Release Date: 
November 10, 2015
Yale University Press
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NY Journal of Books just reviewed Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs: 1850 to Today and Fashion Plates should have been its predecessor as it details in chronological order where documenting fashion started in the year 1778 and finished 150 years later. Fashion Plates is an encyclopedic and painstakingly assembled chronicle/timeline of how fashion and its trends were communicated and disseminated prior to the advent of photography.

Before going any further, the prospective reader will encounter an impressive volume that can only be described as monumental, even within its genre. The physicality of this book sets it apart from the majority of other books that deal with fashion. The sheer size is amazing as well as the quality of every reproduction. The “plates” are flawlessly reproduced in every way. There is no doubt that Fashion Plates is a unique, if not collectible, coffee table book.

Each of the selected 200 plates is accompanied by text that uniquely explains the context—where it originally appeared—and is accompanied by a further explanation of that particular look. Even the aforementioned Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs lacks the depth of research that is so front and center in Fashion Plates. It is so rare that books of this genre explain the original context of a specific illustration of any kind, which in turn gives the reader incredible insights.

These were all rendered by hand either with pen and ink or possibly by etching. The point is that these were not achieved by a click of a shutter in a dark room. These plates offer the true fashionphile the opportunity to imagine and ruminate on just what it might have taken to and how long it took just to turn out one of these, let alone a magazine full of them or a series of advertisements in a newspaper. With not much stretch of the imagination it is safe to say that the creating of these illustrations was almost as time and labor intensive as creating the garment they depicted.

With Christmas weeks away, this is an incredible gift that appeals on so many levels.