Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History

192p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. photos. websites. National Geographic. 2015.
Gr 5–7—This history of mostly European and American fashion discusses the historical context for how people dressed and groomed themselves. Rich with images, the book is laid out magazine-style with appealing sidebars and text boxes, mixed typefaces, brightly colored text, and pun-filled headlines ("Hun and Games," "Surely you Joust," "Bustling Around"). The flippant tone may draw in browsers, but it also makes light of some painful history: a page on clothing worn by enslaved Americans, while strongly sympathetic to their plight, is titled "Slave Clothing: Dressed to Acquiesce." Coverage on many topics—including the fascinating fashion histories of non-European peoples—is as skimpy as a 1960s teeny bikini, and there are a few factual errors. Albee emphasizes throughout that fashion choices lay mostly with the wealthy, whereas fashion labor was (and is) done almost exclusively by the poor, and encourages readers to investigate the working conditions behind their own clothing.
VERDICT Readers who like their history books breezy will be eager to try this on.

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