We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dressing a Nation - The Little Black Dress and Zoot Suits

Going to read a book set in the 1930s to 1950s? Loved the way they dressed in Grease? And what about that dance in season 1 of The Vampire Diaries? Have a party with a theme? Then this is just the book for you!

Title: The Little Black Dress and Zoot Suits

Subtitle: Depression and Wartime fashions from the 1930s to the 1950s

Author: Alison Marie Behnke

Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group

Imprint: Twenty-First Century Books

ISBN: 9780761358923

Publication Date: 1 October 2011

Source: NetGalley

It depends on who you were:

  • Most American women in the depression era made their own daywear, including printed floral dresses and slim skirts and blouses. In wartime the government rationed fabrics, so women often remade men's suits into simple outfits.
  • For 1930s high fashion, nothing beat Coco Chanel's women's suit - a slim, straight skirt with a matching boxy jacket.
  • Casual wartime fashions brought the colourful Hawaiian shirt and khaki trousers into men's closets. Sailor suits also became popular for men.
  • Latino and African American men brought the oversized zoot suit into the mainstream for men of the 1940s.
  • The 1950s saw a shocking development - the two-piece, navel exposing bikini for women and swimming trunks for men!
  • In the postwar boom era, young men either went tough- rolled up jeans, white t-shirtsm and leather boots and jackets - or preppy - a sweater vest and sport coat over casual trousers.
  • And young bobby soxer girls of the 1950s couldn't go wrong with white ankle socks, a pink poodle skirt, and matching weater set.
  • Read more about depresion era and wartime fashions - from the form-fitting little black dress to polo shirts, stylish snoods, and chic chignons - in this fascinating book.
The Review:

I absolutely adore this series of books. The pictures are wonderful and the information so insightful - it gives you all you want to know without wanting more - and if you do want more... well there is an outstanding selection of sources at the back of this book.

The pictures selected highlight the dress mentioned, from the poodle skirt, to zoot suits, to the little black dress, to the styles of Hollywood from Greta Garbo to Audrey Hepburn. This book is the perfect guide for projects on clothes of the era and even a great go to guide for dressing up for a fancy dress party, or a theme party. I really learnt a lot from this book, and the best thing about it is that it is simple enough for school kids to understand, but not so simple that it will bore adult readers. This book provides not only pictures with information but snippets from various magazines and newspapers highlighting the thoughts on these clothes at their apex.

Reading this book was like stepping back in time and experiencing the dress made possible by the opulence before the depression - the thriftiness of the depression era and then the changes that came about with the war and the move towards luxury during the 50s. The impact of Hollywood, the bikini and sunglasses all feature in this book. So do yourself a favour and go and get it now.

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