New Fashion Literature as seen at the AHA

While attending the American Historical Association meeting in New York over New Years, I had the opportunity to explore the new books being offered by a wide variety of publishers. I picked out three that seemed the most relevant to our field and thought I would share them with you here.

The first is The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory by Catherine S. Ramirez (from Duke University Press, available in January 2009), which tells the story of the pachuca, Mexican American women who wore zoot suits. According to the back cover, she typically “wore a V-neck sweater or a long, broad-shouldered coat, a knee-length pleated skirt, fishnet stockings and bobby socks, platform heels or saddle shoes, dark lipstick and a bouffant. Or she donned the same style of zoot suit that her male counterparts wore. With their striking attire, pachucos and pachucas represented a new generation of Mexican American youth, which arrived on the public scene in the 1940s.”

Next, I came across a book of essays edited by Regina Lee Blaszczyk, titled Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers (Hagley Perspectives on Business and Culture) from the University of Pennsylvania Press (hardcover came out in 2007, paperback available in May 2009). The essays in this volume provides international perspectives on the topic (Japan, Canada, Milan, US, UK and Hungary) and was endorsed by Christopher Breward, who said “Anyone who has ever considered how and why fashionable trends emerge will find something of interest in its pages.”

Finally, there is Ready-Made Democarcy from Michael Zakin and the University of Chicago Press, which studies the history of men’s dress between the revolutionary and civil wars. The paperback came out in February of 2006. The publisher notes, “At a time when household production was a popular expression of civic virtue, homespun clothing was widely regarded as a reflection of America’s most cherished republican values: simplicity, industriousness, frugality, and independence.” For more on this book, you can explore Google Books. More reviews (by H-Net and History Cooperative, among others) can be found here.

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  • Worn Through » Book Review: Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style
    June 22, 2011 - 5:03 am

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