This dress is from the sketchbook of Emily Wilkens and is featured in “Young Originals – Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate” by Rebecca Jumper Matheson.
This posting is a continuation of The Dressmaker’s Library: Young Originals – Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate, Part 1
What was it about this book that convinced me it is a valuable addition to the Dressmaker’s Library?
Matheson writes with enthusiasm and conviction about the importance of Wilken’s role as a contributor to the development of teenage fashion, sizing and marketing. The writing style is easy to follow and makes every point very clear. Each assertion is backed up by meticulous research and all sources are named.
How did the author provide a look into the designer’s creative expression that is different from other sources available online and in print?
Emily Wilken’s children Hugh and Jane are the heirs of their mother’s records, scrapbooks, sketchbooks and product prototypes. Matheson was given access to this material by the family. In addition, Hugh and Jane granted Matheson interviews in which a broader insight into Emily Wilken’s life were gained. The result is a well rounded portrait of the designer at work and at home.
Why did this book become important to you and where did you find the most value in it?
About half-way through this well researched book, I felt Emily Wilkens come to life. Her youthful enthusiasm as she went to Hollywood, her excitement at receiving a Coty Award and her subsequent hard work to remain relevant and involved in any way possible with the design of youthful clothing once she got married. Emily’s withdrawal from full-time involvement in the fashion industry was caused by the social pressures of the time (late 1940s through 1950s) that pushed women out of work and into full-time home making. Without going into any rants or tangents about feminism, repression and societal demands Rebecca Jumper Matheson does an excellent job of letting Emily’s choices, actions and results tell the unfolding story of how she overcame these limitations.
The value I found in the book was first in the sketches from Emily’s sketchbook and the technical illustrations for some of her Young Originals dresses. Both are clear enough to provide a blueprint for creating your own versions of an Emily Wilkens 1940-ish style dress. The second area I found of great value lie in the end notes for each chapter. Matheson used many books and magazines that are listed in the end notes. Having this information can help in locating original newspaper and fashion publication coverage of Emily’s career. There are times that nothing can equal the excitement of reading about a person or event as covered by a period publication. For this reason I also find the end notes as helpful as the illustrations.