Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Little Black Dress and Zoot Suits by Alison Marie Behnke

Published October 1, 2011.

What would you have worn if you lived during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s? It depends on who you were! For 1930s high fashion, nothing beat Coco Chanel's women's suit—a slim, straight skirt with a matching boxy jacket. And for a classy evening, men donned black tuxedos and velvet smoking jackets. Read more about depression era and wartime fashions—from the form-fitting little black dress to polo shirts, stylish snoods, and chic chignons—in this fascinating book! (

When this book popped up on NetGalley from Lerner, I was all over it. 40s fashion is usually how I like to dress when dressing fancy, simply because the styles were geared towards a more curvaceous body (which is what I have). Plus they had some awesome hair. So now there's a book that highlights all of the great moments in war time fashion? Yes, please!

This isn't a book with a plot; it's just something that's nice and informational about the clothing and general style of the era. From the hair to the clothes, accessories and shoes, for both men and women, LITTLE BLACK DRESS does a great job of highlighting the best parts of the fashion. Not to mention I got introduced to some awesome designers whose designs I might just have to take to a seamstress because, well, I want some of these dresses, quite frankly.

I only had a couple of complaints. One, I wish Behnke would have mentioned Betty Page, whose style had a huge influence on the culture of the time, along with the hair style known as the victory roll. It was a very popular wartime style that takes some practice to manage. I didn't see either of these mentioned and I felt the book could have even better if they'd been added.

Also, someone got a little liberal with some of the photos and using Photoshop. I liked most of the photography. Looking at old pictures always draws me in but some of them were wildly colored with backgrounds that weren't flattering to the part of the image that they were trying to make pop. I think a more subtle background with a simple 3D effect in the foreground would have been more than enough to highlight the fashion in those particular photos. (This is in the NetGalley digital advanced copy edition.)

Other than that, loved it and I want to buy it for my collection. It's a good book to have for reference (for costumes, for instance, or, if you're like me, for actual dressing) and it's just something nice to look at. It'd make a great coffee table book. One thing LITTLE BLACK DRESS really proved is that the styles that emerged in these three decades really made a lasting impression on culture as a whole. There's a level of class there that isn't seen too much today and now so many designs fall back on those older ones for inspiration, although they take it to levels now that demean the original class of the style. In a world where trash is class and the less you wear means the sexier you are, it's wonderful seeing images in a time where glamour really shown. Where sex appeal wasn't just in the type of body you had but in how you held yourself, in a time where clothes were made for bodies, not the other way around.

Seriously, I loved this book and if you're into the same kind of fashion I am, you'll love it too.

Ban Factor: Low - It's a book about dresses and suits. How horrible can it possibly be?
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