As the opening essay delineates, the 1920's were perhaps the most revolutionary decade in the history of clothes in terms of women's fashion. Never before or since has there been such a change in standards of beauty and fashion for women. Women had never before worn fewer clothes, clothes that were designed for sports (with the accompanying acceptance that women would participate in sports) or clothes that revealed more or were less constructed. It was no less than a revolution of the body.
The opening essay covers every aspect of this change and is more than worth the read, but the real value of the book is in the pictures of the fashions of the times. Not only were the shapes of the clothing, elongated torsos and flattened breasts and hips unlike anything else that had been seen before, surface decoration took on an importance it had never had before to balance the simple lines of the clothing, combined as it was with the new design forms of the Art Deco/Moderne movement. All of this is shown to the reader in everything from photographs of socialites, starlets and others wearing the actual clothing, to idealized high fashion drawing, catalog drawings, fashion drawings meant as advertisements and other advertisements of the time. Every single drawing clearly shows the construction of the clothing. No simple line drawings here, a costumer or designer with some pattern drafting experience could reproduce these styles with the information given. For those not formally trained in fashion or pattern drafting, but hoping to wear the fashions of the past, there are several reprints of books devoted to producing and reproducing the fashions of the twenties and thirties, one is One Hour Dress -- 17 Easy-to-Sew Vintage Dress Designs From 1924 (Book 1) and the other is Dress Cutting -- Instructions and Illustrations for Sewing 26 Vintage 1930s Fashions. It would take several designs and attempts, but I believe that some of the more complex designs in the Fashion Sourcebook could be recreated with practice using these and vintage patterns as a starting point.
All of the twenties are covered as well, from 1920, where shapes still held onto the peplums and tunics of the late Edwardian period through the mid-twenties with the iconic flapper dresses and shapes to the late twenties when the more body conscious thirties styles were just starting to come into vogue. There is also a section that covers accessories and undergarments. The underwear section is an especially valuable edition as it shows the corsetry of the time - something widely believed to have disappeared with the twenties, but if one wasn't actually a slender young girl, achieving the flattened silhouette required foundation garments. Hats other than the cloche are also covered, as are purses, gloves and scarves.
I cannot say enough about the thoroughness of this book. Suits, afternoon dresses, evening dresses, sportswear, bathing suits and not just the iconic styles, but clothing that an actual middle class woman would have worn are all pictured in both photographs and illustration. The fashion illustrations of this time are much clearer than comparable contemporary drawings as they were often the means by which clothing was sold. Construction and detail can be clearly seen.
The twenties were known not only for the change in styles, but for their surface decoration and changes in textile design. These are clearly illustrated as well. Everything from the Orientalism in clothing, to the Deco textile designs, to the embroidered peasant dresses and blouses reinterpreted with a Moderne sensibility gets extensive coverage. The ambitious embroiderer could reproduce one of the designs for use on a blouse or dress. This ambitious embroiderer certainly hopes to try.
I cannot say enough about how wonderful this book is or how thorough. Highly, highly recommended not only for professional and amateur costumers but for fashion designers, fashion historians, all college or university libraries with an arts or design program and public libraries with a fashion section, but even just as eye candy for anyone who loves the clothing of the period. A genuinely amazing book and the most thorough on the twenties that I have ever seen and I own several books on the clothing and textiles of the period. Both scrumptious and useful.