Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alison Behnke and Art Donovan

Since I have started reading books for Netgalley, I've decided to post reviews more often. These are two that I have finished in the last five days. 

The Little Black Dress and Zoot Suits: Depression and Wartime Fashions from the 1930s to 1950s by Alison Behnke

I got an advanced copy from Netgalley. 
This was a well-done and well-researched book on the fashion and hairstyles of men and women from the 1930s - 1950s. It is really amazing how much of the fashion from these eras influenced how we dress today. Things such as blue jeans, khakis, crew cuts, the "preppy" look, leather jackets and tshirts, bikinis, and fedoras are still used today. The author has a detailed bibliography at the end of the book, as well as suggested reading and websites, and films. 

I enjoyed the book for the random facts that were in it, such as: zippers appeared on women's fashion in the 1930s, although they had been on men's fashion starting in the late 1800s; the famous Rosie the Riveter poster was created by Westinghouse; bikinis were invented due to post WWII cutbacks on fabric, even though it was considered improper for women to expose their navels in public; and Elsa Schiaperelli's Lobster Dress had a lobster painted by surrealist artist Salvador Dali. I loved that the author mentioned lesser known designers like Edith Head (famous for Hollywood movie costumes) and Emilio Pucci, acknowledged the impact that Hollywood and the military had on daily fashions and hairstyles, and even talked about famous photographers that photographed during that time period. Recommended for ages 9+, five stars.   

Young Adult & Adult
The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement by Art Donovan

I got the book as an advanced copy from Netgalley. 
This book is the result of a Steampunk exhibition at Oxford University's Museum of the History of Science, which ran from October 2009 - Feb 2010, and was curated by the author (who also designs Steampunk light fixtures). While the exhibit focused on the Steampunk art and the artists that created them, it also featured "original Victorian and Edwardian instruments and machines that exemplified the roots of Steampunk art" (pg 19). Despite the popularity of Steampunk literature and fashion etc, this museum exhibit was the first of its kind. I found it interesting that there weren't only Steampunk clothes and jewelry, but also car motors and engines. 

The book featured "Steampunk 101," which breaks down the term, what it is, where it comes from and how sci-fi fits in with the term. This section explains the purpose of gears and goggles, and the appeal of Steampunk. While I did not know any of the artists, I found their work fascinating and their creator names amusing.  

I loved the Shiva Mandala on page 14 & 15, the Beholder Robot Sculpture on pg 50, Lunar Period on pg 66, The Lady Raygun on pg 72, Datamancer Ergo Keyboard on pg 104, Datamancer Steampunk Laptop on pg 108, and the Flying Civil Servant on pg 115. Recommended for ages 12 +, five stars. 

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