To understand the book, it’s best to read the introduction first, where the author says he originally wanted to showcase his postcard collection but ended up realizing there was a larger picture. And really, the title says it all – the first part of the book is about the postcards and showing them off – then the second half goes over a diverse group of subjects that all equate in some way to ‘Where Did You Get That Hat?”
The author’s lack of finesse is the book’s asset and its downfall; there is a lot of repeated information, the postcards all look the same (all bust shots, several of the same model in 7 different poses), and everything is in great need of a very good editor to reorganize and recategorize. Classifying this book is hard – it’s not really a pictorial reference (not expansive enough for that) nor is it really a historical reference (there is a lot of ‘vignette’ information rather than a good survey of the entire period’s millinery confections). Fashionistas may find all the information about cruelty to animals,historical photographers, stamps, how post cards were made, etc. distracting; post card collectors might want for a greater breadth of presentation; historians will want a more coherent and straightforward presentation.
The book’s images are broken down into the following groups: some postcards, some illustrations from fashion magazines, cabinet photographs, pictures of hat pins, images of houses built on the feather industry, historical images (weddings, women, actresseses, stamps, etc.). The text jumps all over the place – from hat pins to a famous photographer, coco chanel to feather barons.
I really can’t fault the author’s enthusiasm for his postcard collection (if not the subject of hats or fashion). Certainly, I appreciated that he researched the full subject. I just wish this was more focused and settled on one viewpoint. The fashionista in me wanted a better post card variety, the historian in me wanted a more coherent flow of the text, and the coffee-table book lover wanted the text better separated from the images. The avid book reader wanted much more coherence and better focus. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.