September 10 – It’s New York Fashion Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-cover

About the Holiday

A full month of attention to new fashions worldwide begins this week in New York with the 2019 Spring/Summer fashion collections shown to buyers, the press, and the public. Created in 1943 as Press Week, the New York show aimed at diverting attention away from the Paris event during World War II, when “fashion industry insiders were unable to travel to Paris,” and hoped to highlight American designers, whose innovations had largely been ignored. Showcasing the world’s most highly skilled and creative designers, famous models, and plenty of eye-catching styles, Fashion Week is a favorite event for celebrities and fashion lovers alike. As the show in New York winds down on September 14 , eyes will turn to London from September 14 to 18, Milan from September 19 to 25, and, finally, Paris from September 25 to October 3.

little bee books sent me a copy of Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with little bee in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Masha D’yans

 

As Bill Cunningham bicycled through New York City in his trademark blue jacket, tan pants, and black shoes with his ever-present camera, he was forever searching for beauty. And he found it wherever he went. He saw “‘sheer poetry’ in the drape of an evening dress” and “delight in the swoosh of a knife-pleated skirt.” He clicked away as Hermès bags, plaids, stripes, polka dots, and even fanny packs and “fancy-pants dog clothes” paraded by. And the people wearing all of this? “‘I don’t really see people, I see clothes,’ Bill said.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-sheer-poetry

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

For Bill, all of these colorful clothes and creative styles told stories about the people who wore them—people daring enough to be creative whether they were rich or poor. “People who looked like leopards in their leopard prints, cool cats in their hats, dudes in dots and spots.” The New York Times newspaper published Bill’s photographs, letting the world see these stories too.

Before Bill taught himself the art of photography, he worked as a hat maker and then as a fashion writer. He believed that an individual’s sense of fashion was a kind of freedom. Bill found subjects to photograph at “posh parties,” Paris Fashion Week, and even on the streets of New York. His favorite New York corner was Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street. He blended in to the hustle and bustle to snap pictures of passersby in all weather and seasons.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-style

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The people he photographed and those he worked for all loved Bill and his singular vision. In 2008, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor, and Bergdorf Goodman department store celebrated his work with a “lavish display in their Fifth Avenue window.” But Bill shunned the spotlight, preferring that others be recognized. When Bill died in 2016 at the age of 87, the fashion world mourned. But his life and his work live on in his “glorious pictures of clothes and the power they lend us…as we dress each day for the runway called life.”

An Authors Note giving more details about Bill Cunningham’s life follows the text,

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-freedom

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

With lyrical storytelling and staccato phrasing like the beat of a camera’s shutter, Deborah Blumenthal frames Bill Cunningham’s life in snapshots of the color, patterns, people, and philosophy that fueled his talent and his passion. Cunningham’s appreciation for the unique, quirky, and original is celebrated throughout and will inspire young readers to embrace their own identity and display it in their own, particular way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-camera

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Visually stunning, Masha D’yans’ vibrant watercolor and mixed-media illustrations float across the pages with the beauty and flow of the runway as well as the hustle, bustle, and stories of the street. Just as in real life, Cunningham fades into the background, but his camera is always focused on the fashion and what it tells him. Images of Cunningham’s photographs scattered across the newspaper page, strings of negatives hanging like party streamers in his darkroom, and the gray treasure boxes in his stark apartment, provide readers with a deeper understanding of his work and world.

For children fascinated by fashion or who follow their own muse—or want to, Polka Dot Parade is an inspirational book to add to any home or classroom library.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1499806649

Discover more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books on her website.

To learn more about Masah D’yans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with little bee books in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham written by Deborah Blumenthal | illustrated by Masha D’yans

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 10 – September 16. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 17.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by little bee books.

New York Fashion Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanger-photo-hanger-craft

Decorative Hanger Photo Hanger

 

A colorful plastic hanger, some washi tape, a few clothespins, and your own photos or pictures can make a one-of-a-kind way to display your art and personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic Hanger
  • Washi tape – 2 patterns (optional)
  • 3 to 4 clothespins
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Photos or pictures

Directions

  1. Wrap the washi tape around the hanger. If using two patterns of tape, wrap the hook and neck of the hanger with one pattern and the body of the hanger in the other
  2. Paint the three or four clothes pins with one or more colors, let dry.
  3. Clip the clothespins to the hanger
  4. Insert photos into the clothespins

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-cover

You can find Polka Dot Parade at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 3 – Compliment Your Mirror Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

About the Holiday

Take a peek in the mirror and who do you see? That’s right—a fantastic person with inner and outer beauty! Today is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating that person in the mirror! 

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

By Sarah Albee

 

Whether you’re a fashionista or an “any ol’ thing will do” kind of person, there’s no denying that clothes make a statement. Sarah Albee’s fascinating look at human wraps spans history from 10,000 BC to the modern era. Along the way she exposes both historical facts as well as the often repugnant, laughable, and can’t-look-away fashion fads and disasters that have brought us to “wear” we are today.

In Chapter 1: That’s a Wrap, Albee reveals facts about the first needles and thread, silk production, the Mayan tradition of forced elongation of skulls (this was considered attractive, denoted social status, and was intimidating), the first pants, warrior wear, and much more.

Chapter 2: Keeping the Faith exposes the influence religion had on clothing in the Middle Ages. White or russet colored robes were worn by men traveling on pilgrimages while penitents could wear a hair shirt made of itchy, bristly horsehair as punishment. Medieval armor, Samurai dress, why modern men’s loafers are decorated with little holes, and more are also discussed here as is the job of Wool Fuller – in which the Fuller soaked wool in urine to degrease it and improve its texture.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Chapter 3: Going Global covers the Age of Exploration, which changed fashion as explorers from Europe came in contact with Native peoples in the New World. Red dye, rubber shoes, and the leather Moccasins were all adopted by Europeans. And if you think the search for remedies for wrinkles and other vestiges of older age is a modern pursuit, you’ll learn about Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fountain of youth.

Chapter 4: Ruff & Ready takes a look at the Renaissance. You may have seen fur stoles with the head of the animal still attached and wondered, Why? This fashion statement goes back to “Flea Furs” which were dead, stuffed animals that people draped over their shoulders in the belief that the fleas that were munching on their skin would transfer to the animal instead. Unfortunately, people discovered that fleas prefer warm bodies. Another curious fad was the ruff collar. While people may have thought they looked swell, these collars hindered physical movement and even led to the invention of the long-handled spoon because people could not get food to their mouths any other way. One “benefit” perhaps: when the first American settlers ran out of all other food options, they ate their collars, which were stiffened with wheat paste. And there’s so much more!

In Chapter 5: Lighten Up! readers will discover facts about the dour dress of the Puritans and the ostentatious dress of the French court. The tradition of men’s wigs is explained, and today’s face-painting has nothing on the unusual solution for facial blemishes—black velvet, leather, or silk patches in various shapes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Revolutionary Times take center stage in Chapter 6: Hats (and Heads) Off. During this time clothes began to fit the task. There were clothing items to protect (walking canes became popular as a way to ward off marauding wild dogs), uniforms to highlight the good looks of running footmen, elaborate costumes for Venetian parties, and homespun clothes that became a sign of protest from the American colonists. And if you think “bumpits” and hair extensions are new, women trying to keep up with Marie-Antoinette wore their hair (real and artificial) “cemented upward over wire armatures into two-foot (0.6-m)-high coiffures that made the wearer stand 7 ½ feet tall!”

Chapters 7 through 9 bring readers into the modern age, taking them from a time when children were dressed as young adults and boys wore elaborate gowns until the age of 7 to the textile innovations of the Industrial Revolution and the popularity of bustles that put fanny packs to shame to the fads of the 1960s and today.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Albee’s Why’d They Wear That? is much more than a book about fashion. It’s a humorous, fabulously entertaining way to learn about so many aspects of history, from social revolution to inventions to cultural differences. Enlightening side bars, especially the fascinating “Tough Job” entries, and full-color illustrations, paintings, and photographs depicting every concept make Why’d They Wear That? an essential book for school libraries as well as for home bookshelves. Readers of all ages will want to dip into it again and again…and will “Oh!” “Ah!” and “Ewww!” over every page.

Ages 7 and up (children on the younger end of the range will enjoy the facts and pictures during a read-along session)

National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1426319198

Learn more about Sarah Albee and her books on her website!

Watch the trailer for Why’d They Wear That? Fashion never looked so…good? unsettling? hilarious? You decide!

Compliment Your Mirror Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-word-search

Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear?

 

In this magic mirror word search are 20 fashion-related terms from history. Find them all! Here’s the printable Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear puzzle and the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Why’d They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

November 25 – Shopping Reminder Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-cover

About the Holiday

Of course there are reminders everywhere we look that it’s time to do that kind of shopping. But today’s holiday encourages people to count the days until their gift-giving day or days and plan accordingly. Today is also Small Business Saturday, so if you’re out there doing some shopping, consider spending some of that holiday budget at your local shops. Festive events and parties are also often on the calendar during this month and are just perfect for the beautiful creations found in today’s book!

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

From the time that Ann Cole Lowe was old enough to thread a needle, she loved to sew. While her momma and grandma worked at their sewing machines, making dresses for the socialites of Alabama, Ann sat nearby turning “the wisps of cloth” that fell to the floor into “flowers as bright as roses in the garden.” Even at a young age Ann understood that “doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-ann-as-child

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When Ann was only sixteen years old, her momma died. Not only did her mother’s death leave Ann bereft, it left her in charge of the business, and many women were waiting for gowns, most importantly the Alabama governor’s wife. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She sat down and finished the dresses. “Then she stood up and ran the business.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-design-school

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

In 1916 a woman in Florida hired her to sew dresses. She also sent Ann to design school in New York. Because she was African American, however, Ann was required to study in a separate classroom by herself. Ann was not deterred. She continued to make unique gowns and dresses, and her client list grew. Finally, Ann had saved enough money to open a salon of her own in Manhattan. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills, but she persisted. Her life was about “what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.”

One day Ann received an order for a wedding dress from a woman who was marrying a United States senator. The woman’s name was Jacqueline Bouvier and the man was John F. Kennedy, a future president of the U.S. Ann bought 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and designed a beautiful dress with a bouffant skirt and pleated bands decorated with tiny wax flowers. She also made the dresses for Jacqueline’s attendants.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-wedding-dress

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Then ten days before the wedding, Ann walked into her workroom and discovered that a water pipe had burst, flooding the dresses, material, everything. Ten of the sixteen gowns Ann had sewn were destroyed. “Ann though about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She ordered new fabric, hired more seamstresses, and went to work. On this job she lost money instead of making it, but none of that mattered. In eight days all of the dresses were ready.

When Ann delivered the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the butler who answered the door told her workers needed to use the back entrance. Ann replied that “if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding.” The front door swung open. On the day of the wedding—September 12, 1953—the whole world “Oohed” and “Aahed” over Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s gorgeous gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses, but not many people thought about or knew the name of the woman who had created them. “Why? Because Ann Cole Lowe was African American. And life wasn’t fair.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-sewing

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Ann continued to design and sew party dresses and evening gowns for the women of high society. She “didn’t make fine clothes to get rich or famous,” however, but, as she once said, “‘To prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.’” In 1961 Ann finally gained public recognition for her work when she was named “Official Couturiere” in honor of the 33 ball gowns she created for an elegant ball in Omaha, Nebraska. She proudly accepted her award as the fashion world applauded.

An Author’s Note explaining more about Ann Cole Lowe’s life and work follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-recognized

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

To learn more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books for children, young adults, and adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Laura Freeman on her website!

Shopping Reminder Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tablecloth-dress

 

Create Your Own Party Dress 

 

With this easy craft you can make a  fun sheath dress for playing dress-up. It’s also a great party activity! All you need is a plastic or paper party table cloth, Sharpies, and your imagination!

Supplies

  • 1 plastic party tablecloth (1 cloth will most likely make 4 dresses)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Ribbon, scarf, crepe paper garland, or other material for a belt
  • Scissor
  • Newspaper, old sheeting or other material to protect the floor

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size for the child
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Slip on over a shirt and pants or leggings
  6.  Add a belt with a ribbon, scarf, piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review

February 16 – International Month of Black Women in the Arts

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-cover

About the Holiday

During this month we recognize the contributions of black women across the fields of literature, fine, performing, culinary, and healing arts. To celebrate, research black women artists and attend exhibits, readings, or other events that showcase these talented women.

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

From the time that Ann Cole Lowe was old enough to thread a needle, she loved to sew. While her momma and grandma worked at their sewing machines, making dresses for the socialites of Alabama, Ann sat nearby turning “the wisps of cloth” that fell to the floor into “flowers as bright as roses in the garden.” Even at a young age Ann understood that “doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-ann-as-child

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When Ann was only sixteen years old, her momma died. Not only did her mother’s death leave Ann bereft, it left her in charge of the business, and many women were waiting for gowns, most importantly the Alabama governor’s wife. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She sat down and finished the dresses. “Then she stood up and ran the business.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-design-school

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

In 1916 a woman in Florida hired her to sew dresses. She also sent Ann to design school in New York. Because she was African American, however, Ann was required to study in a separate classroom by herself. Ann was not deterred. She continued to make unique gowns and dresses, and her client list grew. Finally, Ann had saved enough money to open a salon of her own in Manhattan. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills, but she persisted. Her life was about “what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.”

One day Ann received an order for a wedding dress from a woman who was marrying a United States senator. The woman’s name was Jacqueline Bouvier and the man was John F. Kennedy, a future president of the U.S. Ann bought 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and designed a beautiful dress with a bouffant skirt and pleated bands decorated with tiny wax flowers. She also made the dresses for Jacqueline’s attendants.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-wedding-dress

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Then ten days before the wedding, Ann walked into her workroom and discovered that a water pipe had burst, flooding the dresses, material, everything. Ten of the sixteen gowns Ann had sewn were destroyed. “Ann though about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She ordered new fabric, hired more seamstresses, and went to work. On this job she lost money instead of making it, but none of that mattered. In eight days all of the dresses were ready.

When Ann delivered the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the butler who answered the door told her workers needed to use the back entrance. Ann replied that “if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding.” The front door swung open. On the day of the wedding—September 12, 1953—the whole world oohed and aahed over Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s gorgeous gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses, but not many people thought about or knew the name of the woman who had created them. “Why? Because Ann Cole Lowe was African American. And life wasn’t fair.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-sewing

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Ann continued to design and sew party dresses and evening gowns for the women of high society. She “didn’t make fine clothes to get rich or famous,” however, but, as she once said, “‘To prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.’” In 1961 Ann finally gained public recognition for her work when she was named “Official Couturiere” in honor of the 33 ball gowns she created for an elegant ball in Omaha, Nebraska. She proudly accepted her award as the fashion world applauded.

An Author’s Note explaining more about Ann Cole Lowe’s life and work follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-recognized

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

To learn more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books for children, young adults, and adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Laura Freeman on her website!

International Month of Black Women in the Arts Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tablecloth-dress

 

Create Your Own Party Dress 

 

With this easy craft you can make a  fun sheath dress for playing dress-up. It’s also a great party activity! All you need is a plastic or paper party table cloth, Sharpies, and your imagination!

Supplies

  • 1 plastic party tablecloth (1 cloth will most likely make 4 dresses)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Ribbon, scarf, crepe paper garland, or other material for a belt
  • Scissor
  • Newspaper, old sheeting or other material to protect the floor

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size for the child
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Slip on over a shirt and pants or leggings
  6.  Add a belt with a ribbon, scarf, piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review

July 3 – Compliment Your Mirror Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

About the Holiday

Take a peek in the mirror and who do you see? That’s right—a fantastic person with inner and outer beauty! Today is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating that person in the mirror!

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

By Sarah Albee

 

Whether you’re a fashionista or an “any ol’ thing will do” kind of person, there’s no denying that clothes make a statement. Sarah Albee’s fascinating look at human wraps spans history from 10,000 BC to the modern era. Along the way she exposes both historical facts as well as the often repugnant, laughable, and can’t-look-away fashion fads and disasters that have brought us to “wear” we are today. 

In Chapter 1: That’s a Wrap, Albee reveals facts about the first needles and thread, silk production, the Mayan tradition of forced elongation of skulls (this was considered attractive, denoted social status, and was intimidating), the first pants, warrior wear, and much more.

Chapter 2: Keeping the Faith exposes the influence religion had on clothing in the Middle Ages. White or russet colored robes were worn by men traveling on pilgrimages while penitents could wear a hair shirt made of itchy, bristly horsehair as punishment. Medieval armor, Samurai dress, why modern men’s loafers are decorated with little holes, and more are also discussed here as is the job of Wool Fuller – in which the Fuller soaked wool in urine to degrease it and improve its texture.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

Chapter 3: Going Global covers the Age of Exploration, which changed fashion as explorers from Europe came in contact with Native peoples in the New World. Red dye, rubber shoes, and the leather Moccasins were all adopted by Europeans. And if you think the search for remedies for wrinkles and other vestiges of older age is a modern pursuit, you’ll learn about Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fountain of youth.

Chapter 4: Ruff & Ready takes a look at the Renaissance. You may have seen fur stoles with the head of the animal still attached and wondered, Why? This fashion statement goes back to “Flea Furs” which were dead, stuffed animals that people draped over their shoulders in the belief that the fleas that were munching on their skin would transfer to the animal instead. Unfortunately, people discovered that fleas prefer warm bodies. Another curious fad was the ruff collar. While people may have thought they looked swell, these collars hindered physical movement and even led to the invention of the long-handled spoon because people could not get food to their mouths any other way. One “benefit” perhaps: when the first American settlers ran out of all other food options, they ate their collars, which were stiffened with wheat paste. And there’s so much more!

In Chapter 5: Lighten Up! readers will discover facts about the dour dress of the Puritans and the ostentatious dress of the French court. The tradition of men’s wigs is explained, and today’s face-painting has nothing on the unusual solution for facial blemishes—black velvet, leather, or silk patches in various shapes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

Revolutionary Times take center stage in Chapter 6: Hats (and Heads) Off. During this time clothes began to fit the task. There were clothing items to protect (walking canes became popular as a way to ward off marauding wild dogs), uniforms to highlight the good looks of running footmen, elaborate costumes for Venetian parties, and homespun clothes that became a sign of protest from the American colonists. And if you think “bumpits” and hair extensions are new, women trying to keep up with Marie-Antoinette wore their hair (real and artificial) “cemented upward over wire armatures into two-foot (0.6-m)-high coiffures that made the wearer stand 7 ½ feet tall!”

Chapters 7 through 9 bring readers into the modern age, taking them from a time when children were dressed as young adults and boys wore elaborate gowns until the age of 7 to the textile innovations of the Industrial Revolution and the popularity of bustles that put fanny packs to shame to the fads of the 1960s and today.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

Albee’s Why’d They Wear That? is much more than a book about fashion. It’s a humorous, fabulously entertaining way to learn about so many aspects of history, from social revolution to inventions to cultural differences. Enlightening side bars, especially the fascinating “Tough Job” entries, and full-color illustrations, paintings, and photographs depicting every concept make Why’d They Wear That? an essential book for school libraries as well as for home bookshelves. Readers of all ages will want to dip into it again and again…and will “Oh!” “Ah!” and “Ewww!” over every page.

Ages 7 and up (children on the younger end of the range will enjoy the facts and pictures during a read-along session) 

National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1426319198

Learn more about Sarah Albee and her books on her website!

Watch the trailer for Why’d They Wear That? Fashion never looked so…good? unsettling? hilarious? You decide!

Compliment Your Mirror Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-word-search

Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear?

 

In this magic mirror word search are 20 fashion-related terms from history. Find them all! Here’s the printable Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear puzzle and the Solution.