Young, Caroline & . Tartan + Frances Lincoln. Feb. 2017. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780711238220. $35. DEC ARTS
Appealing to anyone exploring the language of fashion, Tartan + Tweed, from journalists Young and Martin, weaves the material history of these ubiquitous textiles, chronicling their enduring popularity and shifting cultural meanings in fluid prose and plentiful illustrations. Several previous books also delve into tartan's history and appearances in popular culture, notably Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chappelle's glamorous Tartan: Romancing the Plaid, and Jonathan Faiers's denser, more academic Tartan.Independent curator Anderson's Tweed joins the same "Textiles That Changed the World" series as Faiers's 2008 title. Anderson's study brings new research to the history of tweed, expanding beyond Harris Tweed and upper-class Britain to a more global view. Tweed groans with endnotes, with mostly black-and-white illustrations and a textbook-like format. Books on tweed are generally fewer and less colorful than those on tartan. The most dynamic parts of both Young/Martin's and Anderson's wide-ranging volumes consider how fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Ralph Lauren, and Coco Chanel employed and deployed traditional fabrics in serious and subversive ways. They further investigate the curious ability of these fabrics to sustain contradictory meanings. Also of note are Tartan + Tweed's guides to identifying types—herringbone to houndstooth, Black Watch to Stewart—with practical tips on buying a kilt and caring for a tweed suit.
VERDICT Give Tartan + Tweed to your menswear-loving friends, and put Tweed on your fashion history course reserve.
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