Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: Forgotten Fashion: An Illustrated Faux History of Outrageous Trends and Their Untimely Demise by Kate Hahn

I love humor and while I may not look like my clothes are from the runway and I don’t have a subscription to any of the current fashion magazines, I do have a healthy interest in fashion. If for nothing else, I find that some trends can serve as a way to gauge the social climate by observing clues in the fashion trends. Haven’t you heard the theory that skirt hemlines creep up as consumer confidence increases?

Fun and beautifully illustrated, Forgotten Fashion: An Illustrated Faux History of Outrageous Trends and Their Untimely Demise captures the tone and style of the time periods it describes (from 1903-2005), which helps reinforce the satire but also reflects the author’s understanding and interest in popular culture in modern history.

The story of the ice-beaded dress of the 1920s comes to mind as it is describes both the frivolity and disposable nature of both the dress and the trends followed by the rich and young during the roaring twenties before the depression. The way consumerism and a high value of large-ticket items like cars and washer machines in the late 1950s is illustrated by the story of an artist, his muse, and his dresses inspired by these same applieces, most notably, an Amana fridge. Such parallels run rampant through the book, heightening both its satire on the ever-changing climate of popular culture.

This was an easy book to pick up and flip through. It was created as a series of independent articles and could be read from the beginning or you could skip around. For those searching for a fun book on popular culture that you can pick up and read at your leisure, Forgotten Fashion is a good choice.

Not only were the tales imaginative in their frivolity, they also were plausible, even in the face of (or perhaps because of) absurdity. One would only have to look at the runway to see impractical and absurd fashion statements and you can actually visualize some of the trends in this book. Hell, I think I saw someone wearing the “ponchette” on the train this morning!

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