Skip to main content

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

Review

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

Written by Sarah Albee with a forward by Tim Gunn.
Did you know purple dye was once made with snail snot? As you can imagine, it took a lot of snail snot to produce the dye, making any fabric dyed purple very expensive. That’s why purple was once considered the color of royalty.
 
You will learn this, and many more interesting facts and tidbits, as author Sarah Albee takes you on a fashionable romp through history in WHY'D THEY WEAR THAT? She starts with the cavemen and works her way up to modern times. You will not only learn what the fashions of any particular times were, but also the reasons behind them, how they influenced history and how history influenced them. Albee also includes information on hairstyles, makeup and anything else you can think of related to fashion.
 
Albee writes with a wonderful witty sense of humor. She takes what could be a very boring subject and turns it into interesting and fun reading. For instance, when she talks about the job of a tanner, she writes: “The hair [of the animal] was smeared with dog poop (which contains a softening enzyme). If you can stand to read more – the mixture was then heated up, to speed the softening process. Hard to imagine what the neighborhood must have smelled like.”
 
Albee writes with a wonderful witty sense of humor....Even if you are not a fashionista, I think you will enjoy reading this book. 
 
On the subject of leisure suits, she has this to say: “Because of its molecular structure – strong but elastic – polyester can spring back into shape after wear and look just as awful as when new.”
 
The book contains nine chapters, divided into time frames, starting with 10,000 B.C. Each chapter includes text boxes with additional information. One set of text boxes is called “Tough Job,” where Albee describes what it would have been like to be employed doing some of the things necessary to create the fashions of the time 
 
In the back of the book, she includes a Time Line, Notes & Acknowledgements, a Bibliography, Further Reading and Resources, an Index and a social statement about the true cost of cheap clothes titled, “What Can You Do?”
 
My only complaint is that some of the text boxes are printed with black ink on a dark blue background. This is a personal issue, but I found them somewhat difficult to read. Others might not agree.
 
Even if you are not a fashionista, I think you will enjoy reading this book. I’m not one, and I certainly did.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on February 10, 2015

Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History
Written by Sarah Albee with a forward by Tim Gunn.