More Book Reviews: Knitting, Designers and Chinese Fashion

And now, my continued look at new fashion books for your Holiday enjoyment:

The Culture of Knitting (Berg) by Joanne Turney has been a joy to read.  Turney, a professor at the Bath School of Art and Design, presents a thoughtful and insightful study on knitting in all its forms and socio-cultural impacts. The study is extremely engaging, though academic, and I easily became engrossed in its pages. The book aims to investigate “the cultural impact and meaning(s) of knitting and its development since 1970.” That’s a pretty large task, and Turney does well by covering the topic from a wide array of perspectives, including: Gender/Feminist, design history, postmodern, historical/nostalgia, political, aesthetics, psychological and social,  with a view to uncovering the secret of knitting’s success (that is, the reason for its longevity).

Marianne Jørgensen: Pink M.24 Chaffee, 2007

Marianne Jørgensen: 'Pink M.24 Chaffee', 2007

For those academics who are also avid knitters (such as myself), it is something of a treat to think critically about an activity that you enjoy so much. Don’t misunderstand me, it is a deeply academic text, with few illustrations and no patterns. Turney’s intention with this book is to discuss and contemplate something that is so commonplace that it tends to be ignored. She uses case studies, and heavy doses of theory to do this. Moving beyond the ‘old-lady’ aspects of knitting, some of the most interesting parts of this book occur when the author discusses how knitting since the 1970s has become associated with art, politics, as well as with high fashion and design. My only issue with the book is it’s focus on the UK, especially with regards to popular culture. I’m sure I missed a number of very good points because her reference was so UK-specific. That said, it is still an important and valuable contribution to the study of dress, fashion and textile arts.

The Great Fashion Designers (Berg) by Brenda Poland and Roger Tredre was released yesterday (December 8 ) just in time for the holiday season. Grouped by time period, it provides brief (3-4 page) discussions of each major designer along with a black and white photograph representative of their work. An introduction to each section provides historical context for readers encountering these designers for the first time. The end of each designer bio includes a paragraph with ‘further reading’ resources. Though the photographs are not always the best representative of the designers work, they are images not often seen in publication and the ‘newness’ is appreciated. Overall, it is a great reference for teachers, students, researchers and academics.

Finally, we have Chinese Fashion: From Mao to Now (Dress, Body, Culture) (Berg) by Juanjuan Wu,  Assistant Professor in the Department of Design, Housing, & Apparel at the University of Minnesota. Focused on post-Mao Chinese fashion (1978-Present), Wu examines “the ways fashion has both mirrored and shaped social and cultural change in modern China.” She notes that it is the first study to look at the interplay between western and Chinese fashion during this time to be published in English but from a Chinese perspective. It is organized thematically, as a series of essays covering the history from different perspectives.  These in-depth essays include discussions of the interplay between the media and fashion in China, the concepts of asexual and unisex clothing; the re-appropriation of ‘traditional’ styles such as the Qipoa and Tang Jacket, the rise of the fashion industry and models in China, and the impact of Western brands. It is a comprehensive study, and includes a good deal of illustrative black and white photographs, advertisements and magazine covers. It should be useful to scholars, professors and students and would be a wonderful addition to university libraries.

Chinese super model Lv Ya during Chinese Fashion Week (2009 Spring/Summer Series) in Beijing on November 9.

Chinese super model Lv Ya during Chinese Fashion Week (2009 Spring/Summer Series) in Beijing on November 9.

As an aside, the Portland Art Museum is currently featuring China Design Now (exported from the V & A Museum) through January 17, 2010. Their blog about the exhibition can be found at and the conversation about the exhibition can be followed on Twitter by searching for #CDNPDX.

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1 Comment

  • Fashion Historia › Yarn Bombs, Knitting and Gender
    June 15, 2011 - 11:07 am

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