Priscilla's Picture Book Reviews


Go To Main PettiBook List

Go Directly to Reviews


The quality of original pictures from books or magazines usually surpasses that of downloads, so it would be useful to have a list of books whose chief value is in the pictures.

With the value of original pictures in mind, here is a list of books, most of them primarily as sources of pictures. Most don't have pictures of petticoats as such, and only some have petticoats peeking out, but all have at least several pictures of the silhouette that bouffant pettis give a skirt. In fact, I have given each of the books a conservative count of the number of good photos for Poufbunnies to enjoy. Most have some really excellent pictures for scanning. As I say, my counts are conservative, with lots of near-misses. I have usually excluded, for instance, pictures of even grand, full skirts unless they are clearly supported by big crinolines, and I have generally excluded anything not large or sharp enough to scan. I have also excluded pictures on dust jackets, since a used book may not have one. (I have not usually excluded pictures with cropping, busy backgrounds, or moderate obstructions by purses, flowers, dance partners, bystanders, etc., since I suspect most Poufbunnies find that acceptable, and the pictures could be edited by cutting or on a computer. This is the one respect in which a substantial number of the photos may not be up the standards of the petti-pictures at the Pond.) Nevertheless, these counts are personal, and everybody would have a different count (even I would no doubt get slightly different counts, if I made them again). These counts are naturally only a rough guide to the quality, but better than nothing. Incidentally, one or two of these books also come in small-format paperback form, with poorer-quality images; my ratings are for the large-format version(s). Many poufbunnies have some interests beyond just petticoats (for example, evening dresses in general), and, in most cases, these people will find a good deal to like beyond what the counts say. Certainly, a Poufbunny who sees one of these in a new- or used-book store should look inside.

I've split the books into categories. These categories could be useful to any Poufbunny who is just starting out looking in bookstores, so some of the categories have only one book in them. Finally, the term "not rare" means that I have seen it at least three times while haunting used-book stores.

I have also made picture counts by the same standard as for the below books of a few books in the current PettiBooks list as of March 25, 1998. This is for calibration; you can compare Tessy's evaluation of the photos with mine.

Vintage Fashions for Women: The 50's and 60's, Kristina Harris: 17, with several drawings or paintings.

Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear, Elaine Benson and John Esten: 12, with several drawings or paintings.

Underwear : The Fashion History, Alison Carter: 9, with
several drawings or paintings.

Victorian and Edwardian Fashions for Women: 1840 to 1919, Kristina Harris: 12, with many drawings or paintings.

The History of Underclothes, C. Willet and Phillis Cunnington, 1, with nine drawings.

Movie Costume Design (All of these have at least passing mentions of petticoats in the text):

Derived from the catalog of an exhibition. Lists 157 costume designers with their movie credits, so if you like the designer in one movie, you can find out what else he or she did. The index lets you look up the designer by the movie. Also gives the Academy Awards for costume design through 1988. I know that there are other sources (Video Hound, for example), but not with beautiful pictures to give you an idea of their work.

Mostly pictures, but useful essays and notes. Also derived from an exhibition.

This actually is an exhibition catalog, with running commentary, exhibition checklist, filmography, notes, and indices. In addition to the photographs, there are at least seven costume-design drawings or paintings of interest to Poufbunnies.

Helen Rose is heavily mentioned in each of the three above books as a major costume designer, and this is her autobiography.

Marsha Hunt was an actress and model during the years covered, so she has a personal outlook on costume design. Most of the pictures are of her.

Movies in General (As with the previous category, these books can also be used to help identify good frou-frou movies):

There are not too many out-and-out Poufbunny-type pictures here; one reason is that, although the pages are large-format, many of the pictures are small. This book is nevertheless worth mentioning, in large part because of the wonderful black-and-white picture occupying all of page 192. Here is Judy Garland sitting in her famous frou-frou-covered dress from "Meet Me in St. Louis". Her skirt is only slightly cut off on one side, and a suitor's hat obscures a tiny bit on the other, but it's a great photo nevertheless, and it would make a great scanned image.

Of course, almost any book about this movie is a good book for huge hoop skirts. This just happens to be the one I have on hand at the moment, although I think it's better than most. It also has a number of paintings or drawings of interest to Poufbunnies.

Fashion Other Than Costume Design

One drawback to some of these is that the clothes are often on mannequins, not people. The first of these books should definitely be in your main list, by whatever standard:

This is the catalog of an exhibition held in 1982-3 at F.I.T., and it's all about lingerie. This book also covers corsets, bras, etc., but there is lots of written material about petticoats, not just pictures. There are also a number of drawings of petticoats. The text is in English and Japanese, since this was a joint exhibition with two fashion museums in Japan. One problem with finding this book: There is no title, nor any words at all on the covers! The covers have lace details of a 19th-century dressing gown, which should alert a Poufbunny to look inside, but if only the spine is visible, all you can see is some buttons in low contrast. There is also a bibliography of underwear-related books. Definitely worth looking for!

This exhibition catalog is not rare, and will probably be fairly inexpensive. There is some discussion of the crinolines under the skirts.

This is also not rare, and can be very cheap (I just got one for $1.50). There is some discussion on crinolines here, too.

Descriptions of the history and work of 61 major designers or fashion houses, lavishly illustrated. Most of the pictures are in color, and in a large format. Some drawings and paintings, too. Some mention of crinolines.

I have, in a sense, lowered my standards here, in that essentially all the pictures in this book are drawings, not photos. Also, there are only two clear-cut petticoats among the pictures. Nevertheless, I think that most Poufbunnies will find a lot to like here. There is almost no text except the captions on the hundreds of pictures of undergarments, nightgowns, skirts, and dresses.

Dance  (Again, the first of these should be on your main list by any standard):

A book about ballroom dancing, from the point of view of the late 60's, when the norm was to wear dresses with many-layered petticoats, much more interesting than the norm today. Chapter Nine contains a discussion of these dresses, and of the types of dresses used in various types of ballroom dance (Latin-American, etc.). This is a fabulous book.

This book is not rare, even though it is rather old. It covers all kinds of dance, not just ballet. In particular, there are several full-skirted Latin costumes.

Opera (Not as good a category as dance, but well worth looking at in bookstores):

In addition to the excellent pictures for us poufbunnies, this is a good read in general.

Wedding Dresses (All have short discussions of petticoats):  

Quote: "Always experiment with more than one petticoat shape and always try the fullest petticoat available before you start your fittings, because most gowns look best with extra fullness."

Quote: "A see-through crinoline layered with tulle netting and lace skirt has an ethereal, dressmaker feeling; a bride literally seems to be floating into the church and down the aisle."

Quoting The Complete Wedding Book (Jill Thomas, Wardhook, 1991 [London]I don't have a copy), this book says of someone who was photographed in her crinoline gown with the sun behind her, " when the photographs came out she was standing naked with a cage around her." I hope that this is a bit of an exaggeration, but the image of light coming through crinolines is a lovely one.


This is a wonderful book. No petticoats actually showing (these are studio photographs), but there are many high quality photos from times when huge-skirted dresses were standard.

This is a book about Princess Diana, and, of course, any such book is of potential interest to Poufbunnies. Fully seven of the counted pictures are beautiful ones of the same dress: the big-skirted, fluffy, pastel, off-the shoulder dress in which she famously fell asleep at a museum opening. If one doesn't like it, there isn't much else here. (I love it.) This book is not rare.


Not many good pictures for strict Poufbunnies, although there are many wedding pictures, but the full-page photo on page 191 just about justifies the whole book, for my money. No petticoats visible, but the identical dresses of the two twins(?) are fabulous; they are frou-frou all by themselves. I have seen this twice on remainder tables, and it may still be in print.


An excellent book. I found a pile of them on a remainder table, but it may still be in print.

Back to Top

Return to Homepage