First Look: Cally Blackman’s 100 Years of Fashion

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The last century saw two World Wars, economic disaster, numerous artistic movements, and the rise of the digital age — and, along with it, a complete transformation in women's fashion. Cally Blackman, a dress historian and instructor at Central Saint Martins, attempts to chronicle the shift from corsets to today's ready-to-wear, pulling together more than 400 photographs and illustrations to create 100 Years of Fashion, published by Laurence King. Organized by sections that include "Youthquake," "Amazons," "Couturière," and "New Looks," the goal was to give an overview without getting too in-depth. "I suppose one of the frustrations was I couldn't go into great detail on any one topic because there just wasn’t space to do that," Blackman says. "I think that's always the difficulty with this kind of book." This is the third in a series, following 100 Years of Menswear and 100 Years of Fashion Illustration. The new title comes out May 7, but you can see a preview in our slideshow: "Everyone can identify with [one] image or another because clothes are so much of our lives and such an important part of our lives," she explains. Plus, read ahead for more about the making of the book in our interview with Blackman.

How did you decide which images to include?
It was very daunting. I mean, obviously, a hemline history, chronological approach is rather liable to be quite dull. So, one has to kind of shake it up somehow. And so I chose various themes that were important at various times ... I knew that there were images I needed to find — sort of watershed images if you like, such as Paul Poiret, [who] is very important towards the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. His "Directoire" line really changed the shape of fashion quite dramatically. 1947, Dior’s "New Look," obviously, you know, I had to have that included. Vivienne Westwood’s "Seditionaries" collection in 1976, which introduced punk. You know, there were the obvious watersheds, and then I'm afraid another tool I used was to include favorite images of mine. I mean, this book is a reflection of my personal selection ... and that’s just how it is — I can't avoid that....

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