Numerous and very varied books have recently been arriving for the TRC Library. These range from an exhibition catalogue about eighteenth century Watteau paintings and sketches to a books about Western (i.e. cowboy and cowgirl) clothing in the USA. In addition, thanks to a generous gift from the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles (see TRC Blog), the library has acquired over twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including Maya costume in Highland Guatemala in the 1960’s, Indian jewellery, as well as garments and outfits from southeastern Europe and the Balkans.
Although we normally only recommend books that are published within the last ten years, we are making a special exception of the Fowler textile books, as these publications are still available from the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles.
The TRC Library now has over 2500 titles online and is growing rapidly thanks to these and other gifts. The library is open to the public during our normal opening times (Monday-Thursday, 10.00 until 16.00). Books are not available for lending and taking home to read. The one exception is if you are a Friend of the TRC, in which case you may borrow books for up to a three week period.
ALTMAN, Patricia B. and Caroline D. WEST (1992). Threads of Identity: Maya Costume of the 1960s in Highland Guatemala, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History. ISBN: 0-930741-24-2, soft back, 191 pp., fully illustrated in colour, appendices, bibliography. Price: US$ 27.
This books is a systematic study of Maya costume in one particular part of Guatemala. Although it states that it is looking at garments from the 1960s, in fact the information provided covers a far wider time scale as it looks at the Maya textiles and garments from before the arrival of the Spanish in the fifteenth century to the late twentieth century. The authors look at the garments in various chapters: (a) Men’s dress, (b) Women’s dress, (c) Costume and language, (d) Costume and geography and (e) Costume and society. Within each chapter there is a wealth of detail and information that show how working conditions, group identity, Maya and colonial backgrounds, have all influenced the wide variety of textiles made and the garments worn by men and women.
Recommendation: The TRC has a small collection of Guatemalan textiles and garments and this book has really helped me in understanding the garments, how they work together and where the various items came from. Not surprisingly, this book has become a classic and will be of interest to anyone working in the field of South American textiles and garments, and Guatemalan examples in particular, as well as people looking for inspiration for their own projects. Well worth reading.
BALAKRISHNAN, Usha R. and Thomas K. SELIGMAN (2017). Enduring Splendor: Jewelry of India’s Thar Desert, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, ISBN: 9780990762645, paperback, 135 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price: US$ 20.99.
A catalogue to an exhibition held at the Fowler Museum from the 19th February to the 18th June 2017. The exhibition looked at the silver jewellery and dress traditions in the Thar desert region of north-western India (in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat). The jewellery included items worn by a wide range of social groups. In particular it looked at the silver jewellery made in the Indian city of Jaisalmer and four contemporary sonis (silver or goldsmiths) in particular. Many of the items came from the Ronald and Maxine Linde Collection of Indian jewellery, part of which is promised to the Fowler Museum.
The exhibition discussed how the jewellery is made, the influences on its forms, how it is worn by men and women and with what. The exhibition also included various sculptures and paintings to further illustrate how the jewellery was worn. The catalogue reflects the jewellery and other items on display and has been divided into (1) From Metal to Ornament (the language of jewellery), (b) Four sonis from Jaisalmer, (3) the world of Indian jewellery in general, (4) a selection of jewellery from the Linde Collection. There is also an appendix used to tell various traditional stories about the role of gold (greed) in Indian society.
Recommendation: This is a beautifully illustrated book – and taking good photographs of jewellery is not easy – that visually explores the role of jewellery in Indian society, as well as describing in detail the various main types of silver jewellery from the Thar Desert region in particular. It will be of great interest to anyone who is intrigued in silver jewellery (as producers, historians and/or wearers), Indian dress in general, and Western Indian society in particular.
BARBER, Elizabeth Wayland and Barbara Belle SLOAN (eds.; 2013). Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe: A History in Layers (ISBN: 978-0984755035), 275 pp., fully illustrated in colour, endnotes, appendix, bibliography and index. US$ 32.48.
Southeastern European dress is one of the most complicated forms in Europe. There are numerous variations in this vast region, which has been influenced by many different cultures, from the Ottoman Empire to the Soviet Empire. The names of the countries have changed over time, been re-named, divided, re-named and then divided again. All of which makes a detailed study of the dress history from this region difficult.
This book is an accompanying book to an exhibition with the same name that was held at the Fowler Museum in 2013. Many of the items in the book are from the museum’s own, extensive collection of southeastern European dress. According to the foreword of the book the Museum has over eighty complete ensembles, as well as several hundred individual garments from the region. The chapters in the book have been written by various specialists and include (a) an ambitious 20,000 year history of dress in the region, (b) Ottoman influence on Balkan dress, (c) embroidery traditions in central and southeastern Europe, (d) the role of war on costume, music and dance in one particular Croatian village, (e) the role of dress and dance in the Romani community of Skopje, (f) the stories behind the clothes. In addition there is an appendix, which is basically a catalogue of all the items mentioned in the text. There is a wide range of illustrations that show historical as well as modern images of people wearing the various forms of garments. There are also complete outfits displayed, not on mannequins but flat and in the correct position. In various examples the front and back of an outfit is given, which is most helpful.
Recommendation: This is a beautifully illustrated book that helps to bring into economic and social context the role of dress in the Balkan region of Europe. The diverse nature of the chapters means that a complete overview is not possible (albeit something that is needed) and as such it should not be regarded as a complete compendium to various forms of dress from the region. Instead it is a thought provoking introduction to the subject. This book should be in any dress library that deals with regional dress, European dress and Balkan dress in particular.
ENSS, Chris (2006). How the West Was Worn: Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild Frontier, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press. ISBN: 13: 978-0762735648, soft back, 130 pp., b/w illustrations, short bibliography. Price: US$16.95.
This is an easy-to-read introduction to what some have called the USA’s only indigenous contribution to fashion: the cowboy look. Because this type of clothing originated on the shifting (in the 19th century) western border of the young republic, it is often called Western wear. As this book makes clear, Western clothing was purely functional and work-oriented. It was the clothing (normally wool or flannel) of miners, settlers, ranchers and cowboys. Garments were designed and produced on the East coast, where climate and conditions were very different and more suitable for producing these garments. Travelers, often provided with detailed lists of clothing to take with them before leaving the East coast, found that they could make a lot of money selling or trading their clothing. The need for durable, practical textiles sometimes resulted in breaking social rules: women wore men’s clothing, especially when horse riding, and men wore women’s sun bonnets when their own hats were lost or destroyed.
Recommendation: This is not an academic book. It’s aimed for the general public and the focus is more on social history than on textiles themselves. It does include a general overview of nineteenth century American Western clothing for men, women and children; there are also separate chapters on US military and some Native American clothing of the time. It’s nicely designed with illustrations from nineteenth century mail order catalogues on the margins.
HERINGA, Rens (2010). Nini Towok’s Spinning Wheel: Cloth and the Cycle of Life in Kerek, Java, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum Textile Series no. 9. ISBN:978-0977834426, softback, 92 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price: US$ 23.38.
This is an accompanying book to a small exhibition at the Fowler Museum in 2010 with the same name. The exhibition was based on a collection of Indonesian textiles from Kerek, Java, which belonged to a variety of people, including Rens Heringa, a well-known Dutch authority on Indonesian textiles. Many of the textiles in the exhibition were later acquired by the Fowler Museum. The catalogue includes short sections on Java, Kerek clothing, design formats on Kerek cloth and the relationship between land ownership, social classes and textiles in Kerek. There then follows a catalogue of the 64 items many (but not all of which) were in the exhibition. Each of the items is described with respect to the social meaning of the textile, such as belonging to a grandmother, an elite grandfather or a dyer. These details can be gleaned from the colours, patterns and design layout used.
Recommendation: An interesting study showing how textiles are held in deep regard within certain societies and how the ‘messages’ concerning the wearers and owners can be read. A book that should be in any library about Indonesian textiles, as well as being an introduction to the more specific subject of Kerek textiles.
HOPKINS, Alan and Vanessa HOPKINS (2015). Footwear: Shoes and Boots from the Hopkins Collection, London: The School of Historical Dress. ISBN: 9780993174407, 216 pp., fully illustrated in colour, short bibliography. Price: £25.
The Hopkins Collection includes over 450 items of footwear. This book highlights over 200 pairs of shoes, mostly European, from the Collection. It is arranged chronologically, with the earliest pair (a green silk satin with pointed toe) dating to c. 1730, and the last (black suede with 3 inch heels) to c. 1950s. There is a full page, full colour photograph of each pair of shoes, and an accompanying page with more photographs of details from the shoes (e.g., decorative stitching, trade mark, heel, etc.) and illustrations from the same time period of clothes that would be worn with similar shoes. The photographs and accompanying descriptions make this both a beautiful book and a highly informative one. The construction of the footwear is often shown.
The Collection includes a woman’s and man’s pair of slippers in Berlin woolwork, c. 1830s to 1880s (HC.F-4.97-1 and HC.F-8.00 respectively). The accompanying page show examples of un-made-up panels of Berlin woolwork embroidery for slippers, and an embroidery pattern for slippers from an 1864 magazine. There is a very useful glossary in the back of the book, along with an illustration of the parts of different shoe styles (e.g., court, Cromwell, Derby and Oxford shoes). The majority of the shoes are for women, but there are some men’s and children’s shoes shown. It was also very interesting to see a pair of pattens (HC.F-4.93), used by both workers and elites to avoid mud and water. The shoes sold in Britain during World War Two (when shoes and clothing were strictly rationed) were also interesting—to save leather, wooden soled shoes were attempted.
Recommendation: This book will appeal to anyone interested in shoes. Its information on dating shoes by heel styles could help researchers and collectors alike.
GEORGE-WARREN, Holly and Michelle FREEDMAN (2006). How the West was Worn: A History of Western Wear, New York: Abrams, in collaboration with Autry National Centre, Los Angeles. ISBN: 978-0810992566, paperback, 240 pp., fully illustrated in colour. Price: US$24.95.
This is a well-researched book on the evolution of American Western wear, from nineteenth century male work clothes to twenty-first century rhinestone costumes for country and western singers. It is beautifully illustrated with full-colour photographs on almost every page. The bulk of the book is devoted to the history of Western wear in the 20th century, as worn by screen actors and musicians. One plus of this book is the almost equal attention to women’s wear, as well as men’s wear.
In the nineteenth century travelling Wild West shows helped spread a certain idea of Western wear across the US, as did adventure books and newspapers. By the early 20th century film and television were influencing Western wear. Actors like Gene Autry (1907-1998), Roy Rogers (1911-1998), Dale Evans (1912-2001) and William Boyd (1895-1972) popularized Western wear such as fringed shirts or skirts, piped or embroidered with floral motifs, leather vests, boots, and other Western wear. During the 1940s and 1950s rodeos, dude ranch holidays, and the popularity of square dancing provided opportunities to wear Western-style clothing throughout the country, not just in the American West. By the 1950s Western wear was so popular that fabrics were sold with Western motifs like lassos, cowboys, and steers, along with sewing patterns to make your own cow boy or cow girl clothes. Western wear was big business, involving not just textiles: Roy Rogers endorsed over 450 products, and his brand had a net worth of 50 million dollars. Films continue to promote Western wear, as John Travolta’s character in the film Urban Cowboy shows. This book looks at the influence, too, of designers like Nudie and Rodeo Ben (and later Ralph Lauren). It is refreshing to learn the names of some of the embroiderers who worked for these designers, such as Margaret Miele.
Recommendation: This is a book for collectors, fashion historians and anyone with a serious interest in the continuing fascination with Western wear.
KUSIMBA, Chapurukha M., J., Claire ODLAND and Bennet BRONSON (eds.; 2007), Unwrapping the Textile Traditions of Madagascar, Los Angeles, Fowler Museum Textile Series No. 7, ISBN: 0-930741-95-1, softback, 196 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography, index. Price: c. US$ 20.
The island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa is well-known for its spices and minerals, but as shown by this book it also has a very rich tradition of the production and use of textiles. The textiles and garments show a mixture of African, Indian as well as European styles, which reflect the long and complicated economic, social and trading nature of the island’s history. These are made from a wide variety of fibres, including bark cloth, cotton, hemp, raffia, as well as silk of various types, such as silk from the Bombyx species and various forms of Borocera.
The range of textiles include ikats (in cotton, silk or raffia), beaded forms and striped cloth, narrow bands of cotton similar to Sudanese and Nigerian cotton bands, as well as kente cloth from Ghana. The book concentrates on the role of cloth in various parts of Madagascar, notably the south and highland regions of the island. The various chapters look at both men and women’s clothing.
In addition, there is a chapter about a group of Malagasy portraits that were painted between 1910-1930 by various artists and collected by W. T. Rawleigh, a local landowner. The artists included Antoine Ratreba and Ratodiarivony (also known as Ratody). In particular, Ratody produced a series of men and women’s portraits that show in detail their particular and regional dress (including some intricate hair styles), which is now a valuable source of information about early twentieth century Malagasy dress history. There is also a section about cloth and death and the role of shrouds and how some bodies are re-wrapped because of the importance of being dressed in life and death.
Recommendation: This book should be in any serious textile library, especially ones that are specialising in African or Indian Ocean textiles and garments. As with all Fowler publications the book is fully illustrated with a series of historical as well as modern images and photographs.
PLOMP, Michiel and Martin SONNABEND (2017). Watteau, Bussum: Uitgeverij Thoth Bussum and Teylers Museum. ISBN 978-90-6868731-6; softback, in Dutch, 263 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price: €29.90.
This is a catalogue for an exhibition that was held at the Teylers Museum, Haarlem (The Netherlands), between the 1st February and the 14th May 2017. The exhibition concentrated on the paintings, preparatory drawings and pastel sketches of the French artist, Jean Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). He belonged with the Rococo style of art. Of interest to the TRC is the number of drawings he made of people and their clothing. It is clear he was fascinated by garments (French and foreign), how they draped, reflected light and so forth. Two very different images, for example, show the level of detail Watteau was able to achieve, namely an old man sleeping in his equally old clothing (p. 233) and a wealthy woman prancing in her (silk) dress (p. 237).
Recommendation: This is a book that is both fascinating to read and look at. It presents the diverse nature of Watteau’s skills as an artist. There are numerous depictions in the catalogue, especially in pastel, of the front, side and backs of people that will greatly aid anyone working on early eighteenth century French costume of all social levels, as well as those interested in North European fashion and dress in general.
YEROUSHALMI, David (2012). Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA. ISBN: 978-0984755028, hardback and softback versions available, 198 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography at the end of each essay. Price: US$ 8.88.
This is a catalogue accompanying an exhibition that was held at the Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv, Israel and the Fowler Museum at the UCLA, USA. The book and the exhibition explore the history and cultural development of the various Jewish communities in Iran, as well as those who emigrated from Iran to America following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The book looks at various aspects of Iranian Jewry, based on a series of chapters by various authors. These chapter include information about Iranian Jewish history, culture, language and visual arts. There is also a chapter on the Jewish communities during the period of the Persian Empire, which is based on the Al-Yahudu clay tablets that date to the sixth century BC and were written in the ancient Akkadian language.
Although there are many items in the catalogue few are textiles or garments. Actually there are four, a headcovering, the skirt and trousers worn by a child bride from Marv (1900) and a jacket for a nother young bride in Iran (1908). There are, however, a significant number of amulets and talismans that would have been worn by Jewish women. In addition, there are numerous paintings and photographs that illustrate Iranian Jewish dress for both men and women.
Recommendation: this book is useful for presenting the history of an important group of Jews who have lived for thousands of years in what is now known as Iran. It is a useful context book rather than a textile or dress book.