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Reviewed by Lizzie Bramlett – The Vintage Traveler

The Costume Collector’s Companion 1890-1990 by Rosemary Hawthorne
(Aurum Press ISBN 1-85410-552-3)
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This is a decade by decade guide to collecting clothes and accessories from the 20th century. The focus is on fashions from the UK, where the author is located. Included are descriptions of clothing items that were typical of each decade.

Rosemary Hawthorne has written the most charming and interesting guide to a collection that I’ve ever read. She approaches the subject of vintage fashion by writing about her own collection.

The book is organized according to decades. There are short descriptions of the pieces that make up the author’s collection. What makes the book so great is that there are not just items listed and described, but Ms. Hawthorne puts each piece into the correct historical and cultural context. She describes a lovely dress, and then tells about the proper shoes, bag, accessories and underwear that would have made the ensemble complete.

This approach makes the book a very personal account of one person’s love of historical fashion. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I had been engaged in a series of conversations with the author.

I was a little hesitant about buying this book because I knew it focused on a collection in England, and I was afraid it would not be relevant to the types of items I find here in the States. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The book is valuable to collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, and I learned much about British fashion.

One slight problem with the book is that there is no index, and so finding information you know is there but don’t quite know where can be a bit time consuming. Still, a wonderful work.

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