Why’d They Wear That? by Sarah Albee

Why'd they wear thatLynn: In her introduction to Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History (2015), Sarah Albee notes:

Fashion really is the mirror of history (as Louis XIV is thought to have said), a visual way to describe a society, and this has been true ever since the moment someone slapped on a fig leaf.

She goes on to say that up to 80 years ago, what people wore announced social status, reflected expectations of behavior, population levels and even how much leisure time they had. Some fashions were even life threatening. Even today, whether we care about fashion or not, what we wear makes a statement….(snip)

….This large colorful book is packed with wonderful illustrations that make it a visual delight. Well-designed and eye-catching sidebars add fashion-related items that broaden the story, touching on the original method of dry cleaning, when women started wearing underwear, or how clothing was fastened (before 1330 you had to be sewn into your bodice every day!). This lively book is wonderful for reports, straight-through reading, or browsing. Don’t let it slip away!

Cindy: History teachers need a copy of this in their classrooms to consult throughout their curriculum! For instance, a double-page spread about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire has a section with an illustration explaining “What is a shirtwaist?” It also includes another inset about the 2013 Bangladesh clothing factory building collapse that killed hundreds of workers, despite an earlier inspection that declared the building unsafe…(snip)

…Readers will appreciate Albee’s humor, too. In the 1953 section about the advent of polyester that gave way to the horrible fashion trend of the leisure suit, her caption reads: “Because of its molecular structure—strong but elastic—polyester can spring back into shape after wear and look just as awful as when new.”

The final section asks the reader “What Can You Do?” and offers suggestions on looking at labels, making good choices, and being prepared to answer questions from your grandchildren. “You’ll have some explaining to do!” she warns, next to a photo of sagging jeans! Love it.

Check out our whole post about this book at the Bookends Blog post.