Lingerie and Fabric Art Through the Ages

The Great Book of Lingerie by Cecil Saint-Laurent (Vendome Press: $45).

This book is both fun and oddly serious at the same time, a look at history through women's underwear, dating from the loincloths of Sumerian women of 3,000 BC to the panty hose, bikinis, body-stockings, underwired bras and updated garter belts of the late 20th Century.

Cecil Saint-Laurent, the pseudonym of French novelist/essayist/pamphleteer Jacques Laurent, provides the reader with a most charming and idiosyncratic view of the history of the world's underpinnings. (In case you're wondering, according to him: "The 17th and 18th centuries managed quite well without drawers.")

And there's a large collection of sassy, provocative-but-not-pornographic photographs, sketches and advertisements featuring undergarments of the ages.

Handcrafts That Are Worth Remembering

Art to Wear by Julie Schafler Dale (Abbeville Press: $90).

This slick coffeetable book is almost like a guided tour of the best of handcrafted fashions of the '60s and '70s, with a few more elegant designs from the '80s included as well. It's a lush tribute to the spirit of artists who like their works to move around--on human bodies. And it's full of beautifully reproduced photographs by Otto Stupakoff, printed on worthy stock.

Those who have followed fabric artists over the years will no doubt be delighted to find included such memorable garments as the famed studded jeans jacket created by L.A. artist Bill Shire for the Levi Strauss national competition back in 1973 for the best-decorated denims. (The jacket was judged best of 10,000 entries and was exhibited at the American Craft Museum in New York.)

Now that rhinestone-studded jeans jackets are sold in virtually every fashion store across the country, it's nice to have a book reminding us of Shire's "dazzling ceremonial garb fit for a contemporary warlord."

What this and some of the other photos in the book clearly tell us is that despite considerable time, some things remain unsurpassed.

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