The History of Haute Couture


byDiana de Marly.Holmes & Meier, $38.00. Haute couture (that is, the construction of elaborate and costly garments for royalty, nobility, millionaires’ wives, famous actresses, and expensive courtesans) came and went in a century, but while it lasted it was a remarkable mixture of art and commerce. Ms. de Marly’s history covers the great designers from Worth to Chanel, their overworked and underpaid help, their meek or maddening clients, their professional feuds, and the shifting social attitudes that underlay major changes in costume. As she points out, “The female body has managed to move in some astonishing creations . . .” The illustrations indicate that this is an understatement. Eight color plates, 143 black-and-white, notes, index.