Growing up one of my very favorite books was The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I read it over and over, and still read it every once in a while. When I was about 12 my dad gave me a fashion designer drawing kit. It had templates to use, and ideas to trace, and stickers to put on your finished creations. The ideas are all fabulously mid ninties. And I am sure I still have the complete sheet of stickers, I never used even one of them. Over the years I have drawn hundreds and hundreds of dresses. In highschool I did a history of fashion project and drew period clothing from every era of America’s history. Which, you know, compared to other countries isn’t too long, but it was about 25 colored drawings. I still have them in a file folder somewhere.
I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and I am constantly sketching other people’s clothing or purses. One of my favorite few pages of sketches is from a week I spent in Prague by myself almost 8 years ago. I love those drawings. I sketch people at church too… it’s one of my very favorite places to check out dresses and shoes and coats! There are so many people from such varied backgrounds and ages each with a different style that I always come home with 10 or 12 new sketches and ideas. (I’m a good multi tasker so I can draw and listen at the same time. Or something.) I also keep a notebook next to the couch so I can sketch dress ideas that I see in commercials, or TV shows, or movies. I started watching Mad Men this year and though I hate the story and despise the characters, I am in love with the costumes. The combo of the big 50s skirts and the sleek 60’s styles are my very favorite. Sigh. So pretty. And then every couple of weeks when I have a few hours to myself I’ll go through my sketches and clean them up and a new idea to the “clean sheets.” Which are… well, just like they sound (on the right above). And I have stacks of them. A few have made it into my art journal too (above left). But most of them are tucked away waiting for me find the time to take pattern drafting classes at my local state college and learn how to sew for reals. Instead of my standard fly by the seat of my pants, or skirt. Anyway that very long backstory is leading up to this. For my birthday in February Scott gave me a new book.
It’s another 100 Dresses. And it is fantastic. I have loved flipping through it and soaking up all the beautiful pictures inside. All the dresses inside are from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And they are amazing. Each dress has a short paragraph with information about the designer and the era, but the photos are the main stars. Here are a few of my very favorites. The black long sleeved number in the middle was Yves Saint Laurent’s very first design after he was hired by Christian Dior just a few months out of design school. These dresses make me wish I had more black tie balls to attend. Or more time to sketch, which is probably a little more realistic.
The only thing I didn’t particularly like about this book is that from the last 27 dresses are all from 1980 until now. And most of them are pretty “out there” space cadet super weird dresses. Actually of the 27 only 4 or 5 of them had ANY redeeming characteristics. And only one made it to the top 10 (the pink one on the cover, designed by Vivienne Westwood in 2005). I’m not sure what that says about current fashion/the curator of the book/my definite penchant for vintage style. But I kind of wished that there had been fewer of those crazy 80s and 90s dresses and more 1940s ball gowns and more Mad Men. But that’s just me.
Designer Credits from the book. Top row: left: Jacques Fath, 1947, center: Yves Saint Laurent for Dior, 1958, right: Christian Dior, 1953. Middle row left: Madeleine Vionnet, French, 1938, center: Christian Dior with Yves Saint Laurent, 1955, right: probably European, 1798. Bottom row left: Liberty of London (founded in 1875), early 1880s,center: Andre Coirreges 1965, right: Cristobal Balenciaga, early 1960s.