The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion by Megan Hess

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My recent finished read is a fashion illustration book. Megan Hess illustrated (with permission) 100 of the most iconic dresses in fashion history in her book, The Dress. The book is organized in six sections: Designers, Icons, Weddings, Music, Film and Oscars.

It’s more than just a book filled with nice illustrations. Every dress Megan Hess illustrates comes complete with historical tidbits or background about the history of the dress. Page after page, gorgeous dresses jump out at you. It’s truly a delight to pour through this book.

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One of my favorite dresses is this gown worn by Grace Kelly at the Oscars. I admit that I rewatch Grace Kelly movies (especially To Catch a Thief) over and over again simply for Grace Kelly’s sumptuous wardrobe.

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I adore this dress by Carolina Herrera. The floral ballgown was created in 2013 and Actress Lucy Liu wore it to the 2013 Golden Globes.

I also think the most touching part of the book is the author’s dedication: “For Gwyn. All the dresses I’ve drawn, and all the dresses I own, will one day be yours.”

Now on to the criticism. While each dress gets a double page feature (as shown above), I wish there was additional content devoted to each dress. The information was skimpy at best and could have used much more historical detail.

If you like the combination of history, fashion and illustrations, then this book might be for you. Now if only I can figure out how to make the dresses jump out of the book and into my wardrobe…

xoxo, Jane

 

Pairing books with tea (Sophie Kinsella’s Christmas Shopaholic)

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I recently read Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. It’s the latest in her hilarious Shopaholic series featuring the hijinks of Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and I talked about it here.

Christmas Shopaholic was a lovely, funny and festive read. As you know, I love pairing books with tea and in honor of Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) this book should be paired with a good English tea, preferably at a proper Afternoon Tea. All while wearing an outfit Becky would be proud to wear.

Since Becky is a certified shopaholic, the perfect tea pairing is the Harrods Earl Grey. Becky spent countless hours shopping at Harrods so it makes sense to also fortify ourselves with Afternoon Tea at the Harrods tearoom before continuing our shopping expedition.

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Image via Harrods.

And you can’t go to Afternoon Tea without a Becky-approved outfit. Ok you probably could, but why not deck yourself out? I think dressing for occasions makes life more funner. (I know that funner is not a word…)

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My outfit at a recent Afternoon Tea. I wore a navy polka dot dress by Eliza J, pink shoes and my beloved Karl Lagerfeld quilted shoulder bag.

Also, because I’m not ready to let go of Becky’s world, I created a Pinterest board for this book and tea pairing. Hope you enjoy it!

xoxo, Jane

PS. You can also find me over at Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is a historical fiction set in Canada and England. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author. The story centers around three women, two from the past and one in our present day.

Description:

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

All three main characters are lovely, but I connected the most with Frenchwoman Miriam. Miriam is a survivor of Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp for women. (If you want to learn more about this concentration camp, then visit this page on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.) It is clearly obvious the author did her research and she did it very well. Miriam reminded me of my mother who also survived the Nazis (though unlike Miriam, my mother was not sent to a concentration camp).

Even though Miriam was kind, well-spoken, a diligent seamstress and never gave anything away about her past (at least initially) I could sense her sadness and despair. I really bonded with Miriam as a character. This is what makes Jennifer Robson such a good author.

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What I love

I love the history and background about the Queen’s wedding dress. We (the reader) are literally in the sewing studio, watching the seamstresses hard at work. I was able to visualize every stitch. The author got everything right because she interviewed one of the four seamstresses who worked on the actual royal wedding dress. Again and again, it becomes obvious that serious research went into this story. But in a seamless way, which made this book so enjoyable to read.

There is one scene, where Heather, the modern-day character, spends an afternoon shopping at Fortnum & Mason. This really made me smile as I love Fortnums and was happy it played a small part in the novel.

What I don’t love

There is a rape scene. It’s not graphic or detailed, but it’s a major reason why one of the characters ends up on a different path in life. Had I known there was a rape scene in this book, I probably would not have read it. I’m really sensitive to scenes where women and children get hurt. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t know about it, because I’m happy I read The Gown. It was heartwarming and touching and I will be thinking of the characters for months to come.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but all three women have their happy ending. I guess I just want to throw that out there in case you think the subject matter is too sad. It was a phenomenal book and the months-long library hold was worth it.

Will you be reading The Gown?

xoxo, Jane

First image of the novel and a peek of my own wedding dress by me. Second image via Pexels.com

 

Pairing books with tea (The Time-Traveling Fashionista)

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The Time-Traveling Fashionista is a YA series of three fashionable books by Bianca Turetsky. In the first book of the series, The Time-Traveling Fashionista On Board The Titanic, we are introduced to our main character, Louise Lambert, a young teenage girl living in an old rambling Tudor house in Connecticut with her American father and British mother.

Louise has one true love: vintage fashion. Thanks to her well-read tome, Shopping for Vintage: The Definite Guide to Fashion,* Louise knows more about vintage fashion than the average young person.

When Louise receives a mysterious invitation to an exclusive, invitation-only vintage sale, she accidentally discovers a time-traveling portal via the vintage dresses.

Where does it take her? Onboard the Titanic! While onboard, she encounters several adventures with her new friend Anna, a lady’s maid. But the real questions are whether she can return home before the ship sinks and if Anna can be saved.

I won’t give it away, but I will say that it is a delightful read with gorgeous illustrations.

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My own fascination with vintage fashion makes me daydream about the history of the clothing and who previous owners might have been. I own several vintage clothing and accessories that belonged to my late mother. They are very special to me because she loved her clothes and took good care of everything she owned. She was very poor as a young lady, so I know it was a sacrifice to buy the things I ended up inheriting. This book series resonated with me because Louise is mindful of the history of clothing.

The other two books in the series are The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette and The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile.

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I’m breaking my tea rule because this book (the entire series, actually) needs a big mug of hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream. I recommend Fortnum’s Hot Chocolate! It’s not the fine-powdered inexpensive chocolate. It’s large chunks of chocolate pieces which require milk (not water). Enjoying a decadent cup of Fortnum’s hot chocolate is perfect for this fashionable and adventurous series.

Fortnum's Chocolate*Not a real book, but for something similar try Vintage Paris Couture: The French Woman’s Guide to Shopping or The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping: Insider Tips, Helpful Hints, Hip Shops.

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

 

Paris: Through A Fashion Eye by Megan Hess

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Description:

Paris is an illustrated guide to one of the world’s most-loved fashion cities by one of the world’s most-successful fashion illustrators. In the second of her series of books on classic fashion destinations, Megan Hess takes you on a super stylish adventure through the French capital, showing you the best places for a fashionista to eat, sleep, shop and play – all illustrated in her inimitable, elegant style.

Megan’s tour reveals where fashion icons such as Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfield, Chistian Dior and Louis-François Cartier worked and played, the top restaurants, hotels, boutiques and sites to visit, as well as Megan’s own personal favorite places to shop. This is a must-have insider’s guide to Paris for any fashion lover or Francophile.

What I love

I am falling in love with Megan Hess’ work. Paris: Through A Fashion Eye is beautiful and a happy distraction from the worries around me. This book is an illustrated guide of the most fashionable spots in Paris and it has got to be the most beautifully illustrated guidebook on Paris.

I love that the book is organized in a fashionable, yet coherent manner. It’s divided by the following sections: Do/Play, Shop, Sleep, Eat/Drink, Listings. And the best part is the illustrations! They are not a disappointment. They are gorgeous and elegant.

I love that I learned about the history of the hotels, the luxury designers and the most fashionable dining spots. I’m probably never going to be able to walk into Dior (30 avenue Montaigne) and purchase a handbag, but I love that I know the history of Dior’s (and all the other luxury hotspots) building.

Don’t be fooled by this book. It may be cute and uber chic, but it’s loaded with historical tidbits.

I love, love, love mixing fashion with history. If you feel the same, then this illustrated book might be your cup of tea.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What I don’t love

The only thing I don’t love about this book is that it ended. I could have used about 700 more pages.

If you’ve read this book, please let me know your thoughts!

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Coco Chanel by Megan Hess

 

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Description:

Fashion is ever-changing, influenced by the key designers that capture a moment in history; and Coco Chanel is arguably the most significant influence on women’s fashion in the twentieth century. Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon is a compilation of Megan Hess’ stunning illustrations of the 100 most quintessential moments through Chanel’s history, from Coco’s incredible life, to the impact of Karl Lagerfeld and the incredible items that have become fashion icons – the little black dress, the luxurious bags and accessories, glamorous jewellery and of course the renowned Chanel No 5 perfume.

Interspersed with historical anecdotes and famous quotes from Coco herself, Karl Lagerfeld and other key fashion icons of the era, this book is an elegant and immersive introduction to the moments that shaped Coco and the iconic Chanel brand – and how fashion, in turn, shaped their lives.

When Coco Chanel by Megan Hess arrived in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised at its size. I assumed it would be much smaller, but it’s a perfectly-sized hardback that will look fabulous on my bookshelf or on a coffee table. (Look at the silver-plated pages!!!)

I was also surprised at the book’s substance. Besides the sumptuous illustrations, Coco Chanel has plenty of history, anecdotes and quotes.

The story begins with Coco Chanel’s humble beginnings and takes the reader all the way to the end of her life and to the Karl Lagerfeld era.

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Coco Chanel in 1932.

What I love

The illustrations! I bought this book purely because it’s a gorgeous, illustrated book for adults. I’m so happy I did! I loved reading it while enjoying Megan Hess’ creative drawings of Coco and her world.

I also enjoyed learning about the famous 2.55 Handbag. The book gave a lovely illustrated history of the handbag and explained why Coco Chanel named this particular purse 2.55. {Spoiler alert: Because she created it in February 1955.}

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A black CHANEL Handbag 2.55

What I don’t love

I realize this is more of a fashion book than an actual history book, but I wish that the book didn’t gloss over Chanel’s Nazi past. We learn that Chanel hunkered down at the Ritz during the war (with her Nazi lover) and that after the war she fled to Switzerland. I think the book should have mentioned the unforgivable act she committed during the era of Nazi-occupied Paris.

To make a long story short, Chanel took advantage of atrocious Nazi laws that allowed non-Jewish people to take Jewish-owned businesses away. This is exactly what she did to the Wertheimer family who owned a large stake in her company. She wanted to be the majority stakeholder again so she just took it back. This is unforgivable in my book and should never be glossed over. However, I am happy to report that today the Wertheimer family own and control the House of Chanel.

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Coco Chanel’s suite at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

If you’d like to own this beautiful book for yourself, please consider purchasing it through the links below. I’ll earn a tiny commission which I will use towards purchasing more books to review or perhaps treating myself to a croissant while I re-read this one again. xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Royal Style – A History of Aristocratic Fashion Icons by Luise Wackerl

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Royal Style – A History of Aristocratic Fashion Icons by Luise Wackerl is a history of royal fashion through the ages.

Royals have been fashion icons throughout history and this book features the most famous ones, such as Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth I (yes, Princess Diana too). The book is divided by chapters that feature the various eras. While many nonfiction books of this caliber suffer from a lack of images, Royal Style overflows with photographs, illustrations, paintings and a timeline. That alone makes this book worth it.

Some of the featured royal style icons are Grace Kelly, Princess Margaret, Wallis Simpson, Princess Madeleine of Sweden, Queen Rania and the Duchess of Cambridge. 

What I love

The history tidbits! Wearing fashionable black was first introduced by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. I learned that Louis XIV wore high-heels with a red sole (hello, Louboutins!). Queen Victoria is described as the greatest bridal trendsetter. We do wear white wedding dresses because of her. Edward VII also has a section. He was a socialite and a trendy dresser. One of the chapters features the fascinating stories of the modern commoner princesses like Mary of Denmark, Queen Letizia of Spain and Mette-Marit of Norway. 

The book is also a little bit gossipy (but not in a negative way). For example, the author dubs Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece “The Dollar Princess”. It doesn’t explain why, but I think that might be because it’s rumored that her father (founder of Duty Free) provided her with a large dowry that benefited her new in-laws, the exiled and cash-strapped Greek royal family. Anyway, she may have married into an exiled royal family but her Valentino wedding dress was fit for a queen at a price of $225,000 (another tidbit).

Quotes by Vogue, Elle, Manolo Blahnik and Michael Kors (among others) are interspersed throughout the book, which gives it a lookbook feel.

What I don’t love

I am disappointed that Désirée Clary (Queen consort of Sweden) and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg (wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) were not included.

Désirée Clary was the one-time fiancée of Napoleon and a fashionable member of Parisian high society. She loved her Parisian life so much that it took her over ten years to join her husband (King Charles XIV John of Sweden) in Stockholm.

Sophie was married to Archduke Franz Ferdinand. She may not have been the traditional fashion icon, but she was very much the talk of the town and the spouse of a future emperor.

That aside, I love owning this book because it combines my two interests, history and royals.

Royal Style is out of print, but you can find inexpensive used copies on Amazon.

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for reading my blog. xoxo, Jane