Need a last-minute gift to give to your favorite fashionable friends? You're in luck. Thanks to a recent encounter with William Banks-Blaney—dubbed "The Vintage King" by Vogue—we got the inside scoop on his recent book release. Iconic Dresses: 25 Moments in Twentieth Century Fashion ($35) is chock-full of beautiful imagery and storytelling of some of history's most beloved frocks. Scroll down for our Q&A with the man behind the book!
In your words, what is this book about?
"The book is about women, the clothes they wear, and the designers who create them. It's about how fashion mirrors every change in women's lives through the decades, and of course, the book is about amazing dresses!"
Which designers can we expect to read about and see in the book?
"All the greatest designers of the 20th century, from Chanel to Dior to McQueen to Mugler… plus a few unexpected and lesser-known names."
What was the most challenging aspect of putting a book like this together?
"The book held a few challenges! Firstly, whittling down our greatest discoveries to only 25 dresses and then ensuring that the book held the most fantastic photography by the greatest photographers of the 20th century. I'm delighted that every photographer we approached loved the book, so it's very rare to have Bailey, Avedon, Penn, Bourdin, Sieff, and more all within one book!"
How did you decide on the final 25 dresses to feature, and why 25?
"I decided to focus on the dresses that are more than just a great dress. … I chose those that really changed the way women dress and elevated the designer to an entirely new place … the real 'fashion moments' that take place very rarely."
Can you tell us a little bit about how each dress is dissected in the book?
"Fashion is an extension of how we live our life, so the book references everything from Art Deco architecture to 18th-century portraiture through to the '80s S&M club scene and '90s porn stars. … I wanted to show that fashion design and superb vintage are really woven throughout history and are vital to contemporary design."
Was there an aspect of assembling the book that you found especially fun or exciting?
"There were so many great aspects to creating the book, from researching specific fabrics and photo shoots through to finding original photography of my discoveries from the days when they were made. It was a huge buzz to find an Irving Penn shot from 1959 of a Saint Laurent dress I discovered!"
Do you have a favorite dress out of the 25 featured in the book?
"Its really like asking me to choose between my children as I love them all; however, I have a real soft spot for Fortuny. … As a designer he was so ahead of his time, and I loved finding photographs of his dresses popping up throughout the decades since they were made."
How long did it take you to put the book together from conception to completion?
"From the first conversation to the finished tome, the process was 15 months of writing, research, investigation, photography, and a vast amount of baked goods to keep my energy up. I'm very proud of the result if not the waistline!"
Will you be picking up your copy of Iconic Dresses: 25 Moments in Twentieth Century Fashion ($35)? Tell us in the comments!