The 18th century in fashion Kyoto Costume InstituteI can’t remember a time when I wasn’t intrigued by fashion history. Although I enjoy discovering what people wore throughout history, the costume of the eighteenth century is, to my eye, the most elegant and lovely of all. When I worked at Mattel I came across a delightful little book on clothing before, during and after the French Revolution. The book, called Revolution in Fashion: European Clothing, 1715 – 1815 was one of the most beautiful collections of photographs of historical clothing that I had ever seen.  It was published in conjunction with an exhibition held at the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. The book is filled with gorgeous, full color photos of garments displayed on artfully posed white mannequins. I even loved the white straw hairdos which so perfectly represented the hair styles that accentuated the elegant attire of the period. The images inspired my designs of both Duchess Emma Barbie Doll and Lady Camille Barbie Doll for  the Portrait Collection. Everything about the little book was wonderful. I loved it.

But when I left Mattel the book stayed behind. It didn’t belong to me, after all, I purchased the book with Mattel’s money and I believed my fellow designers would find it as inspirational as I did. Its rare that I regret my honesty, but I have long lamented my decision to leave the book behind. It is now out of print, and used copies can be purchased for between $150 and $250. It’s hard for me to give up that much money for a book on fashion, no matter how much I want it. So imagine my excitement when I found a large book on fashion history by the Kyoto Costume Institute, the same people who made Revolution in Fashion. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century was on sale at my local book store for 50% off. How could I refuse? I couldn’t!  It includes most of the images that I loved from Revolution in Fashion, plus another century or so of beautifully preserved and displayed garments, accessories, shoes, hats and lingerie.

Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century

I can’t say I love the image they chose for the cover of the book. There are many more beautiful ones inside. Fashion History by The Kyoto Costume Institute

Images of Fashion in the 18th Century

Most of these photos were originally published in Revolution in Fashion, but there are a few new ones that I don’t remember. Here are some of my favorites.

The 18th century in fashion Kyoto Costume Institute

The 18th century in fashion Kyoto Costume Institute

The 18th century in fashion Kyoto Costume Institute

One of the aspects of the book I really enjoy is the use of contemporary illustration and artwork to demonstrate how the clothing, accessories and hair styles were worn together at the time. This technique is used throughout the book. The 18th century in fashion Kyoto Costume Institute

Close ups of details, like the swish of the bustle on this dress from the French Revolution, are sprinkled throughout the book as well.The 18th century in fashion KyotoCostume Institute

Fashion in the 19th and 20th Century

The book takes us from the 18th century into the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I’m not as enraptured with the 19th century as I am with the 18th, but there are still a lot of exquisite details to make my heart beat faster. This “princess” gown is a beautiful froth of ruffles and ribbons.

Fashion History by The Kyoto Costume Institute

The book then marches into the 20th century and clothing becomes simpler. Well, sometimes. Fashion History by The Kyoto Costume InstituteThis is just a taste of the inspirational garments and photos inside Fashion: A History from the 18th to 20th Century. But for me the best part is once again being able to gaze upon the images I first saw in Revolution in Fashion. Every time I look at the photos I see something new to inspire me.

What do you think of the photos? Find any inspirational books recently?