Amy de la Haye, better-known to many fashion-scholars as the co-author of, Fashion Since 1900, and Professor of Dress History and Curatorship at the London College of Fashion has just published this A to Z of Style book with Abrams. De la Haye calls this a “quotationary” and it includes A to Z listings of quotes from famous designers, stylists, historical publications as well as the fashionable elite on specific topics from as far back as 1850.
When I first saw this short, gift-book-style publication, I was concerned that de la Haye was abandoning her academic roots, but after reading her introduction and a few of the entries, my fears subsided. Her work remains academic, but also entertaining.
A to Z of Style is a both fun and useful reference for casual readers and researchers alike. In many ways, it functions as a mini-encyclopedia. Entries are often accompanied by contextual notes explaining a vestigial garment no longer in use for context and better understanding. Longer entries provide a greater understanding of a person or era. An example entry:
PERFUME: “To find the name of a perfume is a very difficult problem because every word in the dictionary seems to be registered. The colour flashed in front of my eyes. Bright, impossible, impudent, becoming, life-giving, like all the light and birds and the fish in the world put together, a colour of China and Peru but not of the West – a shocking colour pure and undiluted. So I called the perfume ‘Shocking.’” (pg 94).
While most historians find line-illustrations to be problematic for documentation purposes (they usually impart the stylistic references of the current era onto historical objects), the illustrations provided here by Emma Farrarons are of specific objects in the collection of the V & A. A complete list of the objects depicted, with accession numbers is included at the back of the book.
A to Z of Style offers a creative and entertaining way to learn the history of fashion, without loosing the academic rigor we expect from the V & A and Amy de la Haye.