Book Review – Charles James

In 1988 when I was making $16,000 a year, Rizzoli came out with a series of fabulous coffee table books on the works of Poiret, Dior, Balenciaga (and I think there was one on Chanel too, but I didn’t buy it.) They were $125.00 each – $90.00 on sale if you wanted to take the chance on waiting for them to be marked down. I missed out on the Poiret and only got a copy of it a couple of years ago as a Christmas gift from Kenn who found it online from a used book seller. These were incredibly valuable books to me because I knew I probably would never handle such amazing examples in real life. I still have the books, and although the binding has become unglued on the Dior, they are still precious additions to my library.

Fortunately, the quality of these books has been revived in the most recent publication by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Charles James. Printed to accompany their current exhibition on James, I now know I have to make it down to New York this summer to see the exhibition. My book arrived today and it is in a word – stunning. The photography is clear so you can see details of construction, there are plenty of images, intelligent, pertinent information, and bonus material in the form of an article about the conservation of the dresses as well as a thorough year by year biography of James’ career. This is a go-to, keep-forever book – the sort of thing anyone who is serious about fashion must have in their library.

I have but one complaint – why did it only cost $34.00, inclusive of tax and shipping from Amazon? Twenty-five years ago the Rizzoli books on Dior, Balenciaga and Poiret were published at more than three times the price when I could barely afford rent. This book is worth easily as much as those books and I haven’t even finished reading it yet!

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Charles James

  1. This book looks gorgeous and I’m so pleased that the content lives up to the appearance. It’s definitely going to find a space on my book shelf!

    I was told that Met books are kept relatively affordable because money is allocated in the exhibition budget to help subsidise them – a great thing for us avid book buyers – and aren’t necessarily expected to turn a profit. I used to work for another museum publisher, where the primary aims of our books was to raise profit for the museum, and we used to look enviously on at what the Met used to be able to produce for their prices.

    • In these days of bottom line financing it’s nice to hear of something that is being subsidized – a word I had forgotten existed!

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