There are a lot of books about sewing in this world, and sometimes, amongst the flowery reams of Cath Kidston and Amy Butler publications, something brilliant or strange has emerged. A few months ago, whilst teaching at the Thrifty Stitcher in London, I came across a book called Creative Dressing. Unique, Ageless, Subtle, Exciting; clothes for you to make and look good in year after year. It was published in 1980 and contrary to the claim of the title it could be from no other year. It contains knitting patterns and sewing instructions, as well as interesting, personal interviews with prominent fashion designers of the time giving their opinions on style and dressing. (You can find an interesting article about the life of one of the featured designer, Antony Kwock, online. His life story is not just a part of the history of fashion, where designers and dreamers find it hard, or impossible, to make a long lasting living out of the thing they love to do. It's a lovely tale of how ones life can change and you can find your forte in an unexpected area at any stage.)
What grabbed my attention, though, is the photography and the styling. The book is peppered with images of models wearing the clothes described on the how-to pages. These images are spectacularly avant garde, using strange props (including a stuffed cactus) and unusual poses. The title claims that it deals with subtle dressing, when in fact the photographs are full of bright colours, bold printed fabrics and extreme styling. One model has a face that has been painted white, green lipstick and a ponytail that sticks straight up like a broom handle. The photographer was chosen wisely. He is one Michel Haddi, who has made images for Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang as well as a long list of hollywood gold by the looks of things.
Kaori O'Connor is the author of this weird piece of how-to history, as well as the stylist. I've Googled her and it seems she is still an active writer, having recently authored a book called Lycra: How a Fiber Shaped America, which is now on my Christmas wish list. It also seems she lives in London. Kaori - I want to hang out with you! The introduction to 'Creative Dressing' is brilliant.
Here is one good quote from Kaori: "Fashion has become increasingly manufacture-orientated in the last thirty years, and the emphasis is always on things to buy, not things to make. But step into a designer's studio and you will find yourself a world away from mass production... For good designs are made, not manufactured." Kaori, somehow in 1980 you had your finger on the pulse. Though how good the design in the picture below is, is probably a question of individual taste.
This book is selling for £0.01 on Amazon - I recommend splashing out.