Book – Did you know that traditional Inuit sealskin mittens have two thumbs, so they can be flipped and worn the other way when the palms get wet?
That’s not the kind of intriguing tidbit I’d expect to pick up from a book on the history of fashion, but it’s only one of the ways that Why’d They Wear That? exceeded my expectations. Most books on historical clothing are big, glossy coffee table books from museum presses. That’s great as a visual feast, but the focus of such books tends to be narrow, and the text is often dense, dry and in tiny font.
Why’d They Wear That? gloriously smashes that mold, but without sacrificing either visual pleasure–it’s bright, bold and gorgeous–or quality of information. It’s playful in tone, deeply readable and, most importantly of all to me, focuses on whys as well as whats, delving into the practical and societal causes and consequences of what people wear, such as the significance of indigo dye to colonialism and Anglo-Indian relations. And it’s wonderfully broad in scope, not only covering a vast stretch of time but also–as in the Inuit example above–maintaining a truly global perspective.
Obviously with so much to cover in a slim 200 pages, Why’d They Wear That? provides more of an overview than an in-depth examination. But as a casual read for a cozy afternoon, it’s a fabulous choice for anyone (adults too, despite its home in Juvenile Nonfiction!) who’s interested in costuming, fashion or history.
Film List – I have a confession; I am wannabe fashionista. My addiction to fashion-themed romantic comedies knows no bounds and is ever growing. Here are a few recommendations for a rainy night in:
The Devil Wears Prada
Andrea dreams of being a journalist, and having just graduated from Northwestern University, she is finally ready to start her writing career. But her dream never involved working as the assistant to demanding Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of a famed high fashion magazine. Andrea soon finds herself in way over her head. How will this young woman survive the deadly world of fashion. It’s normal girl transforms into fashion goddess; one of my all-time favorite films. And to top it off the film has a killer cast with the incredible Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt.
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Rebecca Bloomwood is a shopaholic; she dreams of writing for a fashion magazine and sharing her addiction with the world. But Rebecca is in some serious credit card debt from all her shopping escapades and needs a job fast. She manages to land a job at a financial magazine. Now Rebecca has to write about personal finances and saving money while battling her inner shopaholic.
Though more eccentric-depressing drama than comedy, I still think this film is worth a nibble. Kate Winslet portrays fashion designer Tilly Dunnage, who’s had an exciting life traveling the world. When Tilly returns to her childhood home, she is an outcast, even to her eccentric mother, Molly. In spite of her efforts, Tilly falls for the childhood friend turned handsome flirt. To gain the approval of the local townswomen, Tilly begins designing custom apparel for them, but a dark secret from her past threatens to destroy everything. Is it too later to start over and move on from the past?