December 2008

Living pretty

By Rizzoli
By William A. Brandow
By Caroline Cox
By Lisa Sharkey Gleicher
By Melcher Media
Review by
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What's in your wardrobe?

Valentino: Themes and Variations begins with a series of photos documenting the couturier's final collection, from seamstresses hovered over a single garment to the finale of evening gowns in his signature poppy red. Next comes Valentino's exquisite creations shown on silver gray mannequins and interspersed with sketches and contemporary photos. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the pieces offer a sartorial snapshot of the decades: a 1972 pink gingham shantung maxi skirt, Julia Roberts' 1992 Oscar gown with cascading train of black tulle and white ribbons. The final chapter shows 40 years of magazine campaigns.

Long before Valentino presented his first collection in 1959 (before he was born, in fact), Edward Steichen was reinventing the fashion shoot. The portraits of models and celebrities in William A. Ewing and Todd Brandow's Edward Steichen: In High Fashion – The Cond

One of Steichen's breakthroughs was elevating the commercial to art, as he did with shoes in the 1920s. Caroline Cox's Vintage Shoes: Collecting and Wearing Twentieth-Century Designer Footwear suggests he had fabulous material to work with. Cox steps through the rest of the century, discussing major styles, influential designers and all sorts of trivia—from the origins of terms like "spectators" and "flappers" to the influence of the Charleston, tango and other dances on footwear. The many accompanying images are easier on the eyes than the small, sans serif typeface, so don't feel bad about skipping ahead to ogle the striking pumps and slings; ballet slippers and mules; Louis, Cuban and stiletto heels; go – go and kinky boots; platforms and wedges. Oh my.

Living like Ed

Anyone who's seen Ed Begley Jr.'s quirky reality show knows that living green isn't always pretty or comfortable—but it can be, according to Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire. Along with gorgeous photo spreads of each dwelling, there's a list of its green features, which can include gray water systems, recycled and natural fabrics, lots of energy-efficient windows, even a pneumatic elevator. While the eco – friendly route was the logical choice for homeowners like Dwell's marketing director or an environmental lawyer wed to a biostatistician, others were inspired by health concerns or memories of the energy crisis of the late 1970s. The resulting homes range from the Manhattan brownstone of co-authors Lisa Sharkey and Paul Gleicher; a Venice Beach house in mirrored glass (featured on HGTV's "Extreme Living" this fall); and a Seattle house with regionally appropriate dining chairs made of metal recycled from a Boeing jet.

The focus in Domino: The Book of Decorating is more on achieving a comfortable, personalized style rather than an eco-friendly one. Packed with great photos, this delightful book devotes a chapter to every room in the house, including foyers and bathrooms—one of the best re-dos takes a loo from deal-breaker to simple, practical, beautiful—and kids' rooms. A charming drawing leads each chapter, followed by a description of the room's key item (sofa, table, bed); "steal this room" and mix-and-match suggestions, as well as ideas for small spaces. Finally a "Domino effect" spread charts the development of a feature room by showing the various elements—furniture, clipped magazine pages, swatch, memory of a store or room—that inspired the design. The book references websites and comes with a free subscription to the popular magazine.

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