Thursday, 1 September 2011

Book Review: Dreaming of Chanel

Dreaming of Chanel is a non-fiction book where Charlotte Smith tells the stories of just a fraction of the pieces in her collection of antique and vintage clothing, which was bestowed on her by her godmother. Though there are many dresses, hats, suits, bags, shoes etc. featured in this edition, it is in fact the sequel to Dreaming of Dior (something I didn't realise when I bought it) and still it doesn't even cover half the collection!

This book is gorgeously illustrated by Grant Cowan, who makes every turn of the page an exciting moment. Once you have absorbed his stunning representation of the piece at hand, you can then find out the story of the object's wearer. Sometimes the stories are tragic, sometimes funny, often moving and each one reads as a small autobiography in itself. This is the kind of book you could have on your coffee table, available to pick up and flick through (with clean hands of course so as not to damage its gorgeous cover and pages) then settle on a particular page to read without worrying about whether it will make sense in relation to the rest of the book.

This is an absolute must for anyone who is interested in clothes and particularly those who like to know about the history of garments. However, don't pick it up expecting a novel about Coco Chanel or anything like that. While a Chanel suit is one of the pieces mentioned, the stories are about the women who wore the clothes and, on occasion  who made them, though they are often unlikely to be anyone we have heard of today.

Read it if you like: Dreaming of Dior, A Life in Frocks or just generally the history of fashion

Marks out of 5: 4.1

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