New book looks at brightest, darkest moments

FASHION'S PAST

November 07, 1991|By Marcia Vanderlip | Marcia Vanderlip,Dallas Morning News

Let's get in the proper frame of mind: The best place to keep "Let There Be Clothes," according to the author, is probably in the bathroom reading rack.

And while you're there contemplating varicose veins and big thighs, don't despair. Sit down, and read a quick essay or two from the book by Lynn Schnurnberger, (Workman Publishing, $19.95 paperback).

"This is a good book to read if you aren't happy with a part of your body," says Ms. Schnurnberger, who's on a countrywide tour to promote her funny new book that touches on some of the brightest and darkest moments in 40,000 years of fashion -- from the fig leaf to the catsuit.

If something about your shape isn't trendy, just look for a time when you would fit in, she says. "The Mayans thought crossed eyes were really sexy. . . . Edwardian women wanted 40-inch hips and if they didn't have them, they padded them." What's more, Egyptian beauties in 3000 B.C. outlined the surface veins on their breasts and legs with blue dye, according to the book.

Ms. Schnurnberger, 42, has been thinking about fashion's effects for a long while. In the womb she realized "fashion really created an image and had an impact," she says. "When Mom was eight months pregnant with me she hadn't gained any [about eight pounds] weight. She went out and bought a maternity dress so the neighbors would know I wasn't adopted," she says.

As an artist and a painter, Ms. Schnurnberger became fascinated with the history of clothes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has worked as a costume consultant. She has also written five books since 1978 -- one a popular children's book on medieval costume, "Kings, Queens, Knights and Jesters."

But for her most recent work, the author listened to two other important lessons from Mom: "Everything that is old is new again, and never throw anything away."

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