Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Decades of Beauty: The Changing Image of Women, 1890's to 1990's" Review

Amazon gives this book the following description:
'Decades of Beauty' charts the history of female beauty decade-by-decade from the end of the Victorian era to the present day. It highlights major changes which have affected the female image over the years, from corsets to the invention of nylon stockings, false eyelashes and the Wonderbra. Also investigated is the influence of the media on images of femininity. Each decade is split into specific subjects including Faces in Vogue, Fashion and Accessories, Films and Media and Cosmetics. Key personalities and innovators of feminine style are profiled.
I had a friend borrow me this book a couple of months ago and I finally got around to taking a really good look at it last weekend.  I have to say that I am totally impressed. 

Foremost, I thought that this book was beautifully put together.  The collection of pictures of cosmetics, products, clothing and starlets of the various decades was in itself enough to keep me flipping through the pages.  Personally, I find it intriguing to see how products and package design have changed over time (for various reasons including materials availability, aesthetic evolution, etc.)  I also like to see what women were considered the icons of the decades, I think that it can give insight into beauty standards and societal influences on what is or is not considered beautiful.

I also thought that this book was easy to read from both front to back but you could also pick it up and look at a particular decade with ease.  It was so interesting to read about various cosmetics that were used in the past (that weren't necessarily the greatest for peoples' health) and it was enlightening to see how cosmetics trends have changed over time.  This book also delved into fashion and how clothing styles have changed and evolved with each decade.  The explanations of each decade were thorough without going too
 technical, so it was still entertaining.  I wouldn't say that this book is full of humor but it has a light-hearted but still educational feel that was really nice to experience.  It might sound weird but I felt good after I read this book.

Pros - insightful, interesting and thought provoking.  A fairly thorough look at both cosmetic and fashion trends over the past hundred years, without becoming too much to take in and process.  Full of pictures that illustrate various points beautifully.  A great coffee table book that is sure to spark conversation.

Cons - Expensive!!!!  You have to work hard to find an affordable copy of this book - scour eBay and used bookstores!

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