Book Review: 50s Fashion

Pepin Press is a Dutch publishing house started as a one-man graphic design and book production operation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Run by namesake Pepin van Roojen, these books all seem to focus on snapshots of deep niches in design; be it typography, packaging design, crowns, or kimono patterns. It’s a wholly homegrown operation, and much of the material is culled from his own decorative art originals, textiles, and fashion archives.

50s Fashion is the 4th instalment in a series on textile design. Concentrating on the major influences of the later part of the era including florals, abstract art, graphic designs, asymmetric prints, folk art illustration, and novelty prints. Due to advancements in mass printing and technology and a collective cultural desire to leave behind the war-torn, austere ’40s in favour of a “fun and modern” lifestyle, the textile market of the ’50s exploded with these eclectic prints.

The bulk of the book is high-quality, close-up photos of individual textile prints, accompanying period garments made from those prints, and vintage illustration plates and advertisements, all organized according to influence. The small amount of text is limited to a brief, general introduction to women’s fashion in the decade, a highlight of Parisian blouse trends and textile inspirations, and a small excerpt on bathing suit textiles. Some explainations of specific prints can be found, but are not the focus of the book. A fun and welcomed bonus is a CD, with high and low-resolution images of many patterns in the book, which Pepin allows people to copy for small-scale, personal and commercial use.

The side-by-side of print and garment are helpful, to see how the fabrics fall on a three-dimensional form, as it can create quite a different perception of pattern and scale, though they are styled with contemporary hair and make-up. Overall, its best use is probably as a supplemental text for a vintage or design aficionado in need of a reference point, rather than a primer on a decade of textile prints.

50s Fashion (Pepin Fashion, Textiles and Patterns series, No. 4) Edited by Pepin van Roojen. Pepin Press, 2010

review by Magenta Piroska

photography by Jessica da Silva

Magenta Wornette

Seven years ago I found my way to Toronto after completing a fashion design program and eclectic array of university courses out west. I then studied merchandising, and have since worked doing everything from sewing to window display to waitressing to management. Really, though, my fashion education began in the very early eighties, when I skipped Kindergarten to go to work with my mom at her clothing store. I wiled away my fifth year crafting, reading and playing store DJ (that meant Culture Club on repeat). I guess it was good enough to get into grade one! My fashion inspirations come from many places – particularly old patterns, sewing and costume history books, and vintage album covers. I also like the thrill of the fashion hunt and making unloved garments happy again. When I first picked up Worn a few years ago, I was tickled to find such a smart fashion publication, and I’m excited to be here.

Recent Inspirations:

A Design Affair
Illustrator/Graphic Designer Sari Victoria’s inspirations, including many photos of New York window displays

Ysolda Original Patterns
Scottish Knitting designer Ysolda Teague makes me want to go to a stitch ‘n’ bitch in a cute Scottish Pub!

Design Sponge
Lifestyle driven, but I’m a sucker for “before and afters” as well as their Past and Present column

Access to vintage sewing publications, Let’s make some gloves!

Lisa Solomon
Illustration, doily Drawings and rifle targets – interesting art subjects and mediums

Book Review: Laura Ashley

Say the name Laura Ashley and visions of fussy floral prints, Victorian-esque maxi dresses, and Princess Diana dance in my head. Turns out I’m not entirely off the mark. From humble beginnings printing textiles on a kitchen table, the story of Ashley and her family is carefully chronicled alongside that of the company. Martin Wood reveals that the Ashleys never set out to be fashion designers, wanting primarily to be seen as textile printers and interior decorators, but apparel proved a profitable way to market their textile prints. Ample text and photographs provide a detailed account of where Ashley found inspiration and how it was applied to convey the British country essence of their brand. If you’re looking for a juicy read you had better move to the B’s – this biography is a respectful tribute to a woman who truly lived the Laura Ashley lifestyle she created.

by Martin Wood – Frances Lincoln Limited
reviwed by Magenta Piroska (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 10)

photography by Jessica da Silva