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From Rags to Riches
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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.

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.

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