Recently we were fortunate enough to get our hands on Amber Jane Butchart’s new book, her ‘Fashion Miscellany’, which has just been published by The IIex Press. If you don’t already know, Amber is a contributor to Clothes on Film and will soon be teaming up with editor Christopher Laverty for an evening of Jazz Era discussion at the British Library. Her book, by the way, is flippin’ brilliant. If you care even slightly about what we wear and why, AJBFM is an indispensable purchase.
The layout of it is simple enough. It’s basically designed as a dip-in-and-out for research, or whenever you fancy a flick though. We’d call this a coffee table book but it is small enough to fit on a tea tray. There are no photographs inside, only (beautiful) illustrations provided by Penelope Beech. Whatever the subject/era under discussion, they all have a dainty twenties vibe which adds to the overall pretty aesthetic of the book. Unfortunately these illustrations are not in colour, but that concession does help keep the cover price under a tenner.
Apart from those delightful illustrations, the text itself is dripping with factoids and titbits to dazzle your friends with. Sure we all know what VPL is, but how about VBS?* Or that a male Finisher in tailoring circles is called a ‘cock kipper’? Or that the word stiletto comes from the Italian ‘stilo’ meaning dagger? AJBFM is full of this type of thing. Even the fashion savvy can’t fail to turn a page without learning something new. We don’t mean the text is lightweight; more that it’s bite size and easily digestible.
The content seems primarily geared toward women, though there are plenty of notes for (traditionally regarded) gentlemen’s clothes too, like the tuxedo and lounge suit. Amber Butchart really knows her stuff, so you can feel confident that everything you’re reading, and probably intending to show off with at some point, is bang on. Her CV is a book in itself, but the short version involves being former head buyer for Beyond Retro, current associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion, broadcaster, writer and one half of the Sony nominated Broken Hearts DJ duo on Jazz FM. Like her book, she is a sort of Swiss Army Knife for fashion.
There is some film costume content in AJBFM, three short sections with a paragraph of interesting and notable titles. The text is nice and lean with no fat, such as: ‘Quadrophenia (1979) – sparked a Mod revival that was still being felt in the heyday of 1990s Britpop’, or ‘Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966) – spoofs the excesses of the fashion industry while creating a suitable chic monochrome look that has become an inspiration in itself’. It’s enough to get you watching the movie in question, and whet your aptitude to research more.
Perhaps due to the short and sweet format there is no contents page, which can be frustrating for speedy research. Then again the index is thorough enough so just start at the end of the book rather than the beginning if there’s something specific you want to look up. And believe us, whatever you’re looking for, it will be in AJBFM.
* a VBS: Visible Bra Strap. Of course it is.
© 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.