Although fashion designers should always follow their own instincts and intuitions, it is important to understand what has come before. There are dozens of great texts on fashion history that can be a great resource to the designer- from designers they many never have heard of to vintage dressmaking techniques. Here is my list of 10 books I have used and loved.
1. Dean Merceron, Lanvin (New York: Rizzoli, 2007)
A beautifully photographed text which contains execellent detail shots of couturier Jeanne Lanvin's creations from the first decades of the twentieth century. The book also contains detailed biographical information on the designer.
2. Farid Chenoune, A History of Men's Fashion ( Paris: Flammiron, 1993)
The best book I have ever used that contains a thoughtful and scholarly history of menswear. Chenoune covers both mainstream, and counterculture styles from the past and present.
3. Kyoto Costume Institute, Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (Koln: Taschen, 2006)
These two volumes contain the highlights of the prestigious Kyoto Costume Institute's collection. The examples photographed date from the eighteenth century to the present, with an emphasis on contemporary Japanese design.
4. Phyllis Tortora, A Survey of Historic Costume (New York: Fairchild Publications, 1994)
A good survey of fashion history. Tortora starts with the Roman Empire, and ends in the nineties, providing important historical and social facts along with detailed descriptions of fashionable silhouettes from every era.
5. Alain Rene Hardy, Art Deco Textiles: The French Designers (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003)
Art Deco textiles are among the richest and most elegant of the twentieth century. Hardy's book explores all phases of the Art Deco movement, with a focus on France where the style reached its most sophisticated and luxurious peak.
6. Valerie Steele, Paris Fashion: A Cultural History (New York, Berg, 1998)
A thoughtful and intelligent book exploring the complex and unique world of the Parisian Haute Couture throughout history. Steele writes in a very clear and concise manner that makes for a very enjoyable read.
7. Edmonde Charles-Roux, Chanel and her World: Friends, Fashion, and Fame (New York: Vendome Press, 2005)
With lots of photos, Charles-Roux explores the extraordinary life of a twentieth century fashion icon. Chanel herself often lied about and fabricated her background, so this book is helpful for anyone who wants to know the truth story of Coco.
8. Lucy Johnson, Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail (London: V&A Publications, 2005)
This wonderful text provides detailed photos and drawings of garments in the Victoria & Albert's fashion collection. A great way to figure out antiquated dressmaking techniques.
9. Betty Kirke, Vionnet (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998)
Madeleine Vionnet was a master of the bias cut technique; this book provides examples of her intricate patterns along with photos and biographical information. A must read for anyone interested in draping.
10. Joel Lobenthal, Radical Rags: Fashions from the Sixties (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990)
A great text on the Sixties and its wild fashions. Lobenthal provides plenty of photos, with an in-depth analysis of sixties society, art, music, and clothing.