Teens who can’t get enough of fashion magazines, blogs, and television shows such as Project Runway may admire the ingenuity of their favorite designers and share a passion for clothing design. Not only is the fashion and clothing industry one of the world’s largest, it’s often an obsession of those striving to express themselves. Fashion is also a mirror of society, and a visual stimulus for students identifying historical eras and trends. The titles listed here include cultural looks at fashion, allowing creative teachers to connect students’ interests to writing assignments within standards such as the Common Core. Other titles are practical how-to guides for budding designers or style-minded teens, as they to develop transferable skills in fine arts, technology, consumer sciences, or career development and occupational studies.
Making a Fashion Statement
Marnie Fogg’s Fashion: The Whole Story (Prestel, 2013; Gr 9 Up) is a lavish compilation of clothing design, fabrics, major designers, and cultural trends, ranging from 500 BC to the present. Teens will be riveted by entries on Japanese Street Culture, Anti-Fashion, and such red-carpet designers as Stella McCartney and Sarah Burton (for Alexander McQueen). Crisp photography presents many full-page images of garments along with smaller photos that zoom in on unique stylistic features such as the cantilevered skirt of the 1950s, or the Oxford brogues essential to the Zoot suit of the 1940s. Time lines, designer profiles, and inset boxes explaining tidbits, such as the history of the prom, and a research-friendly general index, make this hefty volume a staple for high school browsing and reference collections.
My Fashion Lookbook (Thames & Hudson, 2012; Gr 5-8) invites readers to sketch and create mood boards on its pages’ blank spaces, with step-by-step prompts to select theme, medium, pattern, fabric texture, and even a best friend or celebrity as muse. Jacky Bahbout’s playful tone encourages readers to collect fruit or candy as a theme, and sort them by color, pattern, and shape. Everyday objects such as foil, pasta, and string can inspire clothing trim, and a comb can serve to create a silhouette. Cynthia Merhej’s illustrations have a cheerful, hand-drawn appeal, and deserve kudos for depicting natural figures and varying body shapes as models. This hands-on title is likely to be a wildly popular gift idea, a lesson-plan resource for teachers, or an art club selection for middle grade girls.
Clothing choices and personal appearance can be influenced by determining one’s own fashion sense in terms of body type, personality, and functionality in Somer Flaherty’s The Book of Styling: An Insider’s Guide to Creating Your Own Look (Zest, 2012; Gr 9 Up). Celebrity examples are listed in chapters based on styles (Country Girl, Hip-Hopper, or Preppy), along with tips on how to rock each look. Paper doll-like graphic illustrations depict outfits for each style in this practical guide.
“Fashion Action” sections explain how to hold a clothing swap, how to curate one’s closet, and how to build a look for less (money), energizing teens about their passion. For a styling career, Flaherty suggests teens explore venues such as boutiques, fashion magazines and catalogs, and photography studios, where there is a need for assembling the perfect look for the marketplace.
Libraries, fundraising groups, or teachers interested in putting on a fashion show, prom fair, or closet swap, can find planning tips, fashion trivia games, and much more in Sharon Snow and Yvonne Reed’s Teens Have Style! Fashion Programs for Young Adults at the Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013; Professional). Zeroing in on the library (school or public) as a venue, many of the ideas combine literacy and fashion, such as a “Manga Fashion Show” or an “Anime Convention.” All ideas are followed by a bibliography of print and web resources, and appendices offer reproducible trivia questions, word scrambles, and fashion bingo games. Opportunities to collaborate with community groups are exemplified by a “Clothes from Yesterday” fashion show theme, inviting senior groups to mingle with teens and serving to support the primary objective—to get teens into the library!
Career Focus: Design
For fashion sketch artists, circles, rectangles, ovals, and triangles are the basis for drawing figures, and Mari Bolte keeps the lesson simple in Fashion Drawing Studio: A Guide to Sketching Stylish Fashions (Capstone, 2013; Gr 6-10). Each spread offers a glamorous fashion style conceived in five steps, from line drawings to an enlarged, colorful design. Teen-centric categories include Japanese Kawaii (layers), Goth-Loli (style-to-song), Country Solo, and Top Deck (skater) Style, depicting both males and females in typical model poses. Text is spare, with short captions about a trend’s origin, or suggestions such as warming the tips of color pencils with a hairdryer to make blending shades easier. All eyes will focus on the larger-than-life style ideas in bold colors, which will be an instant hit with arty students.
More detailed sketching instruction, and short-response interviews with fashion designers such as Anna Sui, and Valentino, target the career-minded student in Celia Joicey and Dennis Nothdruft’s How to Draw Like a Fashion Designer (Thames & Hudson, 2013; Gr 9 Up). Once basic figure design is mastered, the author suggests preparing a design brief, or concept, and following it up with research and a collage of sketches, keeping in mind the target market and budget. Simple line drawings and captions hone in on creations such as boyfriend jeans or strapless dress, and details in pleats, wraps, and cuffs. Brief discussions about establishing a mood board of ideas, starting a portfolio, and whether to go to art school or fashion college, will be enough encouragement for secondary students to head out to the nearest fabric shop.
As readers gain confidence in fashion self-assessment and appreciation of the craft, Laura deCarufel’s Learn to Speak Fashion: A Guide to Creating, Showcasing & Promoting Your Style (Owl Kids, 2011; Gr 6-10) leads them on a broader tour through the fashion industry. Armed with clothing designs using a croquis (unadorned human figure drawing), one is readied for participating in a runway show or fashion shoot. Snippets about fashion editors, publicists, retail buyers, and the like offer a glimpse into the number of career options int the field. Illustrator Jeff Kulak’s color-blocked illustrations punctuate short narratives, and fact boxes and quotes from models, celebrity stylists, hair artists, window dressers, photographers, and designers such as Michael Kors are included.
Who better than an award-winning designer to offer the nitty-gritty details students need to know to advance their talents? British designer Samata Angel’s Fashion Designer’s Resource Book (Bloomsbury, 2013; Gr 9 Up) encourages readers to write a good business plan; create a cut, make, and trim unit—or manufacturer (CMT); and protect designs by entrusting them to a third party such as an organization such as Anti-Copying in Design (ACID). A wealth of information also covers the international fashion scene, eco-fashion values, securing financial support, and making use of social media. Attractive formatting with fact boxes, case studies, and photos of aspects of the industry make this an indispensable career guide for secondary and undergraduate students.
We Are What We Wear: A Look Back
A long-lived fashion trend—blue jeans—is explored in Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s The Lowdown on Denim (Annick, 2011; Gr 5-8). Lloyd’s narrative recounts how, as a young peddler, Levi Strauss sewed durable twill pants fastened by rivets for Gold Rush panhandlers. The pants soon became a clothing staple, and in time, denim became the fabric of choice among cowboys, soldiers, rock ‘n rollers, hippies, and black market shoppers around the world. A parallel cartoon story by illustrator Clayton Hanmer has two contemporary teens ad-libbing scenes from historical eras that depict not only social, but political, events such as Rosie the Riveter’s jean-centric dress code that influenced the culture of fashion among women and African-Americans during and after World War II. The dual format livens the informational text for struggling readers, and is a model for peritextual elements that activate background knowledge.
Amazing and amusing facts appeal to kids, and Kathleen Krull’s picture book Big Wig: A Little History of Hair (Arthur A. Levine, 2011; Gr 2-4) is filled with fascinating historical and modern hairstyles and treatments. Long before girls of the 1970s sported wedge cuts to imitate figure skater Dorothy Hamill, Queen Elizabeth’s court dyed their beards (and horses’ tails!) red to show loyalty. Peter Malone’s full-page gouache illustrations also show how some styles recur after hundreds of years, such as the Native American Mohawk, and Nigerian dreadlocks. The title invites comparing and contrasting styles born out of necessity or fashion, and other critical thinking explorations on why we decorate ourselves.
Knickers, boxers, loincloths, and bras… These unmentionables, and more, move the subject from head to tail in Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-all History (Annick, 2011; Gr 5-8). Capitalizing on middle graders’ inherent interest in all things indecorous, illustrator Ross Kinnaird infuses humorous cartoon graphics into Kyi’s cultural tidbits covering anthropologists’ study of Egyptian mummified undergarments, inflatable petticoat underskirts of the 1850’s, and a more serious example of a future bra that might detect breast cancer. Suggesting that our underwear reflects our societal values, Kyi offers background information about medieval practice of wearing underwear in public to show humility, Christianity’s preference for modesty, politically motivated bra-burning feminists, and more. While indexed for inquiry, browsing appeal may eclipse reference value.
“If you’re not naked, you’re into fashion,” Tom Streissguth professes in Getting the Hang of Fashion and Dress Codes: A How-to Guide (Enslow, 2011; Gr 7-10). Guiding readers to their own style begins with a historical move from dressing according to rigid class distinctions to the freedom to rebel against tradition and parental control. Don’t get too comfortable in one style, however, as Streissguth describes the nature of short-lived fashion trends and markets that seek to capitalize on them. Dress codes in schools may have originated from Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuary laws that tied vainly costumed young men to delinquent behavior, although other rules such as wearing a Muslim head scarf, or hijab, in school, is an example of religious tradition. Facts about the long coat ban after the Columbine shooting in 1999, and Tinker v. Des Moines School District, the Supreme Court case that supported students’ rights to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, will be useful for student researchers.
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