Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 6.03.15


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!

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

Why'd They Wear That?
Fashion as the Mirror of History
by Sarah Albee

When I first checked out this book, I thought I would be reading about the history of fashion. But as the reader soon finds out, and as Sarah Albee herself notes in the endnotes, it's not the history of fashion, but it goes deeper.  It gives you the historical context behind the fashion - why did they wear what they did?  It's the history of why they wore it, the reason they wore it, and how it held up through the history of time!  For example, armor has stood the test of time.  From early medieval armor made of chain mail to the kevlar jackets that officers wear nowadays to protect themselves.  Or you know those decorative holes found on shoes, particularly men's shoes?  Well those came from medieval Scotland and Ireland where it was necessary to have those holes in order to drain the water that entered the shoe when walking through swamps.  They're called brogues.

Albee pairs with National Geographic and it's filled with many text features that come standard with NG books - eye-popping photographs and illustrations, cutaways filled with fascinating illustrations and captions that give additional information.  The sub-chapter titles are also clever and humorous.  There is a decorative timeline at the bottom of each main chapter that lets you know the century that is being covered in the chapter.

So many parts told about something that made me go, "ugh!!! Why did they do that??" Which of course, Albee goes on to give you the reason.  For example, bound feet.  I've read about them in many books - not always the reason behind them, but it was part of the character.  This book shows an x-ray (ow, ow, ow) and a photograph.  It is crazy to me that this would be "high fashion" somewhere, and what's crazier, it was more prevalent among the wealthy.  And then there were other parts of the book that made you think about functionality.  That's ok - Albee explains that too.  No worries, even when wearing armor, the men still had a way to um, use the facilities.  Unless they were just too busy in battle.  In which case they just let it go.  Hmm, maybe that was more history than I needed to know. :)

And isn't it interesting that in the 1500s, they were looking for the fountain of youth.  Actually, they were really looking for gold and glory.  Nowadays we call the fountain of youth "botox". I told you Albee does a great job connecting the past to the present!

Or did you know that wearing a "patch" wasn't just meant to go over your eye?  No, patches were used in Europe in the 1700s as a way of sending messages.  For example, a woman would wear a patch on her right cheek as a way of showing she was a married woman.  But a woman who was trying to send out the signal she was available, would wear a patch near the mouth.

Albee takes a few pages to cover some fashions we see now, like tat sleeves or Justin Bieber's pants, I mean low-riders.  She also mentions the cheap labor that occurs illegally overseas in factories.  I liked some of the new inventions - like socks with sensors in them that can prevent running injuries.  Wow, no more blisters?  Sign me up!

This book is not one you or students will sit down and read in one sitting.  It's one to go back through over and over to really get all the information.  Although just going through and taking time to view each illustration could really be informative!  I enjoyed the time Albee put into this book and explaining the history of the history of fashion!


  1. This book sounds fascinating! I loved your narration of your thinking! Shows that the book really made you react.

  2. This book is on my stack Michele and after your review I am moving it up to the top. Thank you!