Cover image for The classic ten : the true story of the little black dress and nine other fashion favorites
The classic ten : the true story of the little black dress and nine other fashion favorites
MacDonell, Nancy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 208 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT525 .M323 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Nancy MacDonell Smith explores the origins, meaning, and remarkable staying power of the ten staples of feminine fashion:
* the little black dress
* the white shirt
* the cashmere sweater
* blue jeans
* the suit
* high heels
* pearls
* lipstick
* sneakers
* the trench coat
Tracing the evolution of each item from inception to icon status, she reveals the history and social significance of each, from the black dress's associations with danger and death to the status implications of the classic white shirt. Incorporating sources from history, literature, magazines, and cinema, as well as her own witty anecdotes, Smith has created an engaging, informative guide to modern style.

Author Notes

Nancy MacDonell Smith is the fashion news/features director at NYLON magazine. She has written about fashion and style for the New York Times , Harper's Bazaar , and many other magazines.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Smith's endearing and quirky book centers on colorful myths, historical facts, meanings, methods and many other allures surrounding 10 wardrobe basics. The stars here are the little black dress, the suit, the cashmere sweater, the white shirt, the high heel, the trench coat, blue jeans, pearls, lipstick and sneakers. MacDonell Smith, the fashion news and features director at Nylon magazine, chose these items for their glamour and simplicity. Her analysis ranges from the historically-based ("The most potent permutation of white-shirt innocence was the version worn by schoolgirls... young, naive, virginal") to the celebrity-based (Isabella Rossellini on suits: "Men's suits... are incredibly comfortable and sexy"). It's a cute idea, although the book tends to get bogged down by too much text and not enough art. Sidebars and photos are conspicuously absent, and only die-hard fashionistas may have the ambition to persevere through the entire work. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

A fashion news/features director at NYLON magazine, Smith takes an in-depth look at the history and evolution of ten staples of feminine fashion-the little black dress, the suit, jeans, the cashmere sweater, the white shirt, high heels, pearls, the trench coat, lipstick, and sneakers. She examines the ways in which both the conservative patriarchy and the women's liberation movement influenced fashion. As Smith informs us, "The taboo against women in trousers was so strong that women didn't even wear two-legged underwear until the 1850s." Each chapter begins with an insightful quote about the piece of apparel under consideration and contains frequent references to celebrities (frequently the Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey) who contributed to making each of the ten staples famous. While Smith provides an entertaining history of fashion classics and their origins-she is extremely knowledgeable about the subject-the narrow focus of the book minimizes its potential audience. Ten original line drawings are included. For libraries where there is a demand for books on fashion history.-Corey Newkirk, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.