Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl are the authors of the new book, The History of Modern Fashion (September 2015), and they were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their new publication from Laurence King, the publishing process, and their vision for the book. Nancy Deihl was my advisor in graduate school at NYU’s program in Visual Culture Costume Studies and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share her work. This new book covers the history of fashion from 1850-2010 and is lavishly illustrated. It’s a must have for fashion historians, students, and enthusiasts (and with the holiday’s approaching would make a great gift!)
How did the book, as a project begin, and develop? How long did it take to research, write and publish?
The publisher, Laurence King, based in London, approached the fashion design department at FIT about the possibility of a fashion history book. Daniel teaches in that department and was definitely interested in the opportunity and asked me to join him. It took us over six years to research and write and have it brought to print.”
My assumption is that you intend it to be used as a fashion history textbook with some cross over appeal to the general market. How do you see it’s ‘place’ in the world? Especially in comparison to other fashion history survey’s out there (such as Tortora or Mendes/de la Haye)?
The History of Modern Fashion works well for textbook use. We organized the book using a decades approach, knowing that that’s how many (if not most) instructors organize the material for a course on modern fashion. And we start with 1850 because that’s also a typical marker for a class. The 1850s and 60s were notable in terms of developments of the designer system and also technologies, both important for laying the groundwork for 20th century fashion.
We also made sure to include subheadings, a glossary, and really explicit captions so every word is an opportunity to inform! We feel – and the feedback we’ve gotten so far backs this up – that it fills a niche for lots of different levels of instruction. The general public seems to be enthusiastic as well. I spoke at an NYU alumni event last week – and as you know Steinhardt alums range from musicians to physical therapists – and there was a fantastic response to the book!”
Six hundred images is a LOT! How did the image selection/research/publication process go?
Yes, 600 images is a lot. Images are crucial to this project so we are grateful that everyone at LK understood that. We were very lucky that the picture editor, Heather Vickers, who has done a number of books for LK, was extremely imaginative and just wonderful to work with. We did lots of sleuthing and had a wish list and although not every picture we wanted was traceable (or affordable) the results are extremely satisfying! And the Special Collections department at FIT was instrumental in helping with images – making many, many available to us.”
Anything in particular you’d like your fellow historians to know about this book, the process, or the research?
This was a big project. We learned so much along the way – not just about fashion history but about research and collaboration and communication. We certainly got to know each other very well through this collaborative process. At the beginning we were colleagues who were only slightly acquainted; by the end of the process we could finish each others’ sentences!!
One of our favorite aspects of the writing is the ‘sidebars’ that are part of each chapter – self-contained, fun (we hope!) profiles of memorable characters and fashion ‘stories.’”