Thursday, January 5, 2017

Edwardian Ladies Hat Fashions: Where Did You Get That Hat? by Peter Kimpton

Shouldn't it be Edwardian Ladies' Hat Fashions, with an apostrophe? I know this is an ARC (free copy from publisher/Netgalley, fair and honest review, etc.) but it's on the cover, too.

Reading EDWARDIAN LADIES' HAT FASHIONS is a bit like going clothes-shopping with someone who doesn't wear your size and doesn't have your taste in clothes. At first it will be nice seeing the clothes on your friend and helping them pick out lovely styles that suit them, but after a while, you'll be thinking to yourself, "God help anyone around me if I see one more wrap dress!" and secretly plotting how to ditch her for the food court.

Such it was with the first half of EDWARDIAN LADIES'. The author apparently collects fashionable post cards, and his enthusiasm as a collector is charming, and his knowledge about the fashions of the time is formidable. But the first half of the book is, and I kid you not, pages and pages of hats, many of which look suspiciously similar, and are sometimes actually the same model with the same hat, just in different poses. I loved Kimpton's historical interludes where he gives background information and historical facts about Edwardian fashion and the broader social contexts that inspired the trends, but with the hat section, pages go by with literally no text. Just hats. There aren't even any captions describing the hats.

I was tempted to DNF, but pressed onward, and I was glad I did because Kimpton decided to spice things up a bit in the second act. No longer are we stuck in Milliners' Purgatory; he talks about the ostrich feather barons in South Africa, how mass extinctions occurred because of the high demand for exotic feathers, the origins of Coco Chanel and how she got her foot through the fashion door because of her milliner's license and creations, hat pins, Edwardian fashion plates, and so much more. My favorites were probably the pictures of the hat pins, especially the Egyptian-inspired ones, and the pastel fashion plates depicting what was considered high fashion at the time.

EDWARDIAN LADIES' FASHIONS is an interesting book that manages to pack a lot of topics in the second half. It gives it a "back heavy" feel, but while I do feel that the layout of the book could have used some improvement (at least in my edition, and which may change, since I have an ARC, and the layouts and content are potentially subject to revision prior to publication), I found myself interested in the history of something I had never really considered before:

Where did they get their hats?

3 out of 5 stars.

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