From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America

From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America

by Leslie Sills

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
For those seriously into clothes, From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America by Leslie Sills begins with swaddling clothes for babies during Colonial times and follows through to Victorian hoopskirts and crinolines, to the "Anything Goes" clothes of today. Photos of fabric swatches and sewing machines share space with paintings and archival photos to break up the text and give girls a flavor of each era. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This heavily-illustrated, picture-book-sized volume presents a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of girls' clothing in America, and explores how historical events and philosophy influenced clothing trends. In the 1600s, children were viewed as small adults, often sinful and in need of discipline that could be provided in part by swaddling and stays. These practices were relaxed in the 1700s when Locke and Rousseau postulated that children were divine creatures who should be encouraged to play outdoors; thus, children needed more comfortable clothing. Clothing continued to evolve and was dependent on who a girl was (a farm worker, slave, Native American, textile mill worker) and her economic status (nouveau riche, pioneer, immigrant). Some dress styles illustrated and described include pinafores, leg-o'-mutton sleeves, hoopskirts, bloomers, bustles, yoke dresses, shirtwaists, poodle skirts, bell-bottoms, blue jeans, and contemporary styles. Also affecting girls' dress styles were the inventions of the cotton gin, sewing machine, mail-order catalog, zipper, and man-made fabrics. The book's pages are pastel colored, often embossed with a pattern and frames around the edges. In a few instances, this design makes the print difficult to read, but the overall effect is one of fun and informality. The photos are multicultural. A very thorough glossary defines all the styles mentioned. There is a reference to an Internet site where one can learn about current out-sourcing trends and labor practices in the garment/textile industry. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Holiday House, 48p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio., Ages 11 to 18.
—Florence H. Munat
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-From confining stays in the Colonial period to Victorian-era hoopskirts, through bustles, bloomers, and rompers, to the comfortable outfits of today, Sills shows how American girls' clothing has closely correlated to cultural expectations and gender roles. She effectively presents garments as "a form of communication" within the context of historical attitudes and events, reflecting changing ideas about childhood in general and girls in particular. Her commentary includes contemporary thinking on discipline and education and its effect on styles. Numerous well-captioned vintage portraits and photographs illustrate her points. While never crossing over to actual fictionalization, the author extrapolates details about the pictured individuals on the basis of their appearances. Describing a 19th-century photograph of young textile workers, she writes, "The girls' clothing and postures say a lot about their lives. They look quite proper because they had to be," and then provides information about the daily lives of mill girls. Sills includes individuals from varied geographical areas and social classes, from the obviously wealthy to the working strata, as well as African-American slaves and a Native American youngster. The effects of historical events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and wartime shortages of fabric are noted, as is the impact of prominent people ranging from Queen Victoria to Shirley Temple. This visually pleasing volume will be useful to students researching American history, popular culture, or fashion, or just looking for a fun browse.-Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.28(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

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