House of Fashion: Haute Couture and the Modern Interior

Image of House of Fashion: Haute Couture and the Modern Interior
Release Date: 
July 12, 2018
Bloomsbury Visual Arts
Reviewed by: 

Jess Berry tries to convey to the reader the links between fashion, interiors (salons/shops) and modernism: (modern artistic or literary philosophy and practice; especially: a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression). This last category seems to be almost repetitious if not unnecessary considering the book’s topic—especially for those who understand the world of fashion.

The subjects are somewhat a given in that fashion has always reflected our times. The linkage of interiors with the beginnings of the “maison” begun Charles Frederick Worth, its so called inventor, is weak one at best. What seems odd is the modernism link, which is sort of inherent or inextricably linked to the other two aspects of a “fashion house.” Note this is decades before the term brands came in to being.

“When history’s first credited haute coutourier, Charles Frederick Worth, changed the name of his fashion business from Worth et Boberg to Maison Worth in 1870, he linguistically set himself apart other fashion merchants with a designation that implied intimacy, privacy and aristocratic privilege.”

This is no easy simple historical reading experience; instead this is a meticulously and microscopically researched book that borders on an almost thesis or treatise. To say its style is verbose is like saying a dog has four legs.

“In privileging the visual representation of fashion and the interior as a source for analysis, the book considers how the language of modernism was integrated into women’s experience through magazines including Vogue, Femina, Art et Decoration and Harper’s Bazaar.”

Yes, without question there is much to be gleaned and learned from its reading and even to be enjoyed but it takes a highly focused and fact hungry reader to plow through this book. In some ways, the perspective reader might find this a case of far too much information as well as information that seems extraneous in the extreme. To complicate matters, the author’s writing is most formal in manner and tends to come off rather like a text book.

This reader almost felt that he was being forced to accept the concept of modernism, which seemed to be unnecessary since the concept itself is part of what makes fashion an expression of our times . . . past, present or future.

Fashion House should have been a book that all fashionphiles would want to read if it had been written in a much more reader friendly way instead of this almost professorial, pedantic manner. As said, if a reader possesses enormous patience and brainpower to plod through this book, it is worthwhile, but reading it in its entirety might prove to be a challenge.