Both author and illustrator work in the fashion industry: Jane Rocca as a journalist with 20-plus years’ experience writing about fashion and illustrator, Juliet Sulejmani moving from design to freelance illustration. The fashion industry has seminal moments, when something wholly new and unexpected appears, and these are the iconic moments Rocca and Sulejmani focus on.
Such moments are not just artistically significant but can also have cultural and/or political impact. Think of Dior’s New Look post WWII. This was an almost defiantly confident statement against the austerity of the war years, using yards and yards of fabric and ensuring more space for the post-war woman in both symbolic and literal terms.
Ground Breaking Fashion’s first section, Frock ‘N’ Roll, begins with the Swan dress worn by Björk in 2001. Each piece is beautifully illustrated by Sulejmani with details of the designer and a brief, yet informative, description of the impact of the garment. Rocca notes that, although the dress was seen as a red carpet ‘miss’ in 2001, by 2014 the Valentino fashion house included a reimagined version of the Swan dress in their couture collection. Other notable garments in this section are Kylie Minogue’s golden hotpants and Susie Quatro’s leather look.
Of particular interest is the High Street section which covers garments that have become part and parcel of everyday life. These range from the bikini and demin jeans, to pencil skirts and bomber jackets. Jeans were worn in Westerns as far back as 1939 (John Wayne in Stagecoach) but it was Brando in The Wild One who identified them with rebellion and made them sexy.
The review of iconic fashion moments concludes with a section on Adornments. There is much debate over the origin of the stiletto heel. Credit for making it a fashion icon goes to Salvatore Ferragamo who made a pair for Marilyn Monroe in 1950. I was surprised to find that desert boots had been designed by Clark Shoes, best known to me for school shoes. Rocca suggests the design for the boots was based on a style worn by British soldiers in Burma in the late 40s and noted it has barely changed in the last 70 plus years, something which is very unusual in the world of fashion.
The book is an informative and fun look into some of the most important garments, statement pieces and trends in fashion over the 20 and 21st centuries. The illustrations present the pieces much more favourably than photographs could and it’s a pleasure to see such wonderful drawings.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 8