‘Decades’ of fashion history and inspiration

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Cameron Silver, owner of the vintage shopping institution Decades, has spent the last 15 years teaching Hollywood and the fashion world that what’s old is new. And now he has written a book on the subject.

“Decades: A Century of Fashion” (Bloomsbury, $60), co-written with Rebecca DiLiberto, is the colorful story of 20th century fashion and trends told decade by decade, through more than 200 images of celebrity style icons and designer clothing.

In the introduction, Silver explains that he started his career as a cabaret singer and came to fashion accidentally: After stumbling upon so many gently-used treasures during his travels while on tour as a performer, he eventually decided to open a shop to sell them in a high-end setting.


Decades opened its doors on Melrose Avenue in 1997 when fashion was all about grunge and Hollywood hated getting dressed up. But eventually stylists and editors came around to Silver’s vintage Chanels and Yves Saint Laurents. Nicole Kidman wore a vintage Loris Azzaro gown from Decades to the 2001 premiere of “Moulin Rouge,” and soon, Vogue did a eight-page vintage fashion spread.

Before buying a vintage piece for the store, Silver makes certain it looks modern and relevant to today, not costumey. The rule has served him well. By the mid-2000s, vintage haute couture was all the rage on the red carpet and Silver’s star was rising.

Today, he’s recognized as an industry expert and front-row regular, with a forthcoming reality show on Bravo. With this book, he shows readers that the world of vintage fashion is much wider than they may have realized.

A decade is a long time, sartorially speaking, with multiple looks, rival trends and tastemakers. For example, the cool blond Grace Kelly was an icon of the 1950s, but so was sexpot Bettie Page. The 1960s were a decade of pills and pillbox hats, of rock and revolution, the space age and “the old age,” as in old- world couture designed by Pierre Balmain, Oleg Cassini and Ferdinando Sarmi and worn by icons Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Arden. Each chapter covers a decade, closing with a single designer who made the biggest impact -- Paul Poiret from the 1920s, Rudi Gernreich for the 1960s and Narciso Rodriguez for the 1990s.

It’s an education about the people who create fashion but also the people who bring the looks to life, which, in this decade dominated by the Hollywood red carpet, is more important than ever.