Fifty Years of Fashion

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New Look to Now

Valerie Steele

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From haute couture to hot pants, from glamour to grunge, the past fifty years have witnessed some startling revolutions in fashion. This lively survey of postwar fashion not only describes the great designers and their creations but also places trends in clothing within their social and cultural contexts.

Valerie Steele begins by discussing the impact of World War II on the international fashion system, explaining, for example, how the success of Christian Dior’s "New Look" was the result of sweeping social and economic changes that included a shift from the atelier to the global corporate conglomerate. In the 1950s, Steele argues, developments in the world of fashion were influenced by sexual politics and the anxieties associated with the Cold War: social conformity and gender stereotypes led to such phenomena as "wife-dressing" and "the man in the grey flannel suit." Steele traces the fashion revolution of the 1960s, which smashed both social and sartorial rules as "swinging London" inaugurated its own new dictatorship of youth. She describes the rise of the women’s movement and the hippies’ antifashion sentiment, which ushered in a new freedom of choice in the 1970s, "the decade that taste forgot." She finds that the 1980s, often described as "the decade of greed," was actually a more complicated period, when Calvin Klein jeans as well as suits by Armani became notorious yuppie status symbols. And she shows that the fashion of the 1990s, emphatically postmodernist, has repeatedly returned to the themes of Retro, Ethno, and Techno styles.

Valerie Steele is chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

A dividend selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club

"A lushly illustrated discussion of the ways in social events have affected fashion since Christian Dior’s revolutionizing ‘New Look,’ Fifty Years of Fashion traces the connections between events like World War II to their reaction in fashion. . . . This is a must have for anyone interested in cultural history in all its forms."—Jodi Kaye, Bloomsbury Review

"A lively survey of how we have dressed since World War II, from haute couture to hot pants, glamour to grunge."—Karol Stonger, Bradenton, FL Herald

"As an overview of the importance of styles for our times, 50 Years works, and the gorgeous dresses and suits pictured . . . illustrate the social factors and silhouettes reflective of the times in which they were designed."—Kendall Morgan, Dallas Morning News

"Offers acute observations about the historic and cultural contexts of fashion trends and fads from 1947 to the present. Interwoven into the superbly written text is a valuable literature study on the subject. . . . Best of all, readers are treated to over 65 photographs of some the garments in the museum at FIT. This book should be required reading for students of the 20th-century fashion, but it is so well written that lay readers will enjoy it too. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"A lively history of dizzying shifts in the way we look, Steele's book puts clothes in the context of the rest of our lives."—Cathy Curtis, Los Angeles Times

"[This book] provides a fine illustrated history which charts the ebb and flow of different fashion trends over time. Period pictures as well as new photos are included in a collection which charts how fashion changes. Essential for any collection covering fashion issues."—Diane C. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

"Perhaps no one is better able to interpret fashion than Valerie Steele. As chief curator of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she is an expert on style and design. But Steele doesn't just sit back and admire her chic surroundings. Instead, she builds memorable exhibits and translates them for publication in books such as Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. . . . The 1997 exhibit has since been taken down, but the book is still available and provides a wonderful overview of the stylish display. The book—like the exhibit—explores how and why fashion has changed over the past half-century. Steele writes for the haute couture-educated, as well as the dedicated mall shopper. You need only have a slight interest in fashion to enjoy Steele's book."—Heather Hannan, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

"[Steele's] beautifully illustrated and authoritative book . . . assesses the style of the half-century 1947 to 1997."—Anne Cowan, The Glasgow Herald

"Steele makes thorough use of the rich collection of garments and atelier photographs from the Fashion Institute of Technology's vaults. She achieves what fashion itself so rarely manages: context."—Leanne Delap, The Globe and Mail

"As a fashion historian, she is quite simply one of the best. . . . Her main strength, and it is a great one indeed, is to put fashion in the context of society in which and for which it is made. If the history of fashion has any usefulness, it is as a mirror to the surrounding culture, reflecting both the hopes as well as the anxious neuroses of the time. Valerie Steele makes fashion history seem very useful indeed. Another well-thumbed text to grace the bookshelf."—Sally Brampton, The Observer

"A thoughtful examination of style that takes in everything from why French women persisted in wearing trousers during World War II despite Vichy orders to the contrary, to the causes and consequences of grunge."—Vogue

ISBN: 9780300087383
Publication Date: August 11, 2000
176 pages, x
50 b/w + 100 color illus.
Ralph Rucci

The Art of Weightlessness

Valerie Steele, Patricia Mears, and Clare Sauro

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Japan Fashion Now

Valerie Steele with Patricia Mears, Yuniya Kawamura, and Hi

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Shoe Obsession

Valerie Steele and Colleen Hill

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A History of Lingerie

Colleen Hill; With an introduction by Valerie Steele

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Fashion Underground

The World of Susanne Bartsch

Valerie Steele and Melissa Marra; With Susanne Bartsch and

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