Fifty Years of Fashion - Steele, Valerie - Yale University Press
Social Science
Art and Architecture
Performing Arts

Fifty Years of Fashion

New Look to Now

  • Valerie Steele
      REVIEWS             PREVIEW             CONTENTS             EXCERPTS      

Out of Print.

From haute couture to hot pants, from glamour to grunge, the past fifty years have witnessed some startling revolutions in fashion. This lively survey of postwar fashion not only describes the great designers and their creations but also places trends in clothing within their social and cultural contexts.

Valerie Steele begins by discussing the impact of World War II on the international fashion system, explaining, for example, how the success of Christian Dior’s "New Look" was the result of sweeping social and economic changes that included a shift from the atelier to the global corporate conglomerate. In the 1950s, Steele argues, developments in the world of fashion were influenced by sexual politics and the anxieties associated with the Cold War: social conformity and gender stereotypes led to such phenomena as "wife-dressing" and "the man in the grey flannel suit." Steele traces the fashion revolution of the 1960s, which smashed both social and sartorial rules as "swinging London" inaugurated its own new dictatorship of youth. She describes the rise of the women’s movement and the hippies’ antifashion sentiment, which ushered in a new freedom of choice in the 1970s, "the decade that taste forgot." She finds that the 1980s, often described as "the decade of greed," was actually a more complicated period, when Calvin Klein jeans as well as suits by Armani became notorious yuppie status symbols. And she shows that the fashion of the 1990s, emphatically postmodernist, has repeatedly returned to the themes of Retro, Ethno, and Techno styles.

Valerie Steele is chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

A dividend selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club