Book Review: As Seen on Worn Journal: Girls to the Front

Our friends over at Worn Journal (not to be confused with Worn Through) asked me to contribute to their Best Fashion Books of 2011 compilation, which just came out.

Below is my contribution, which highlights a book I greatly enjoyed:

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

    I completed my PhD in Design-Apparel Studies in November 2010 and hope to start back to work in Fall 2012, so I’ve been on a very rare hiatus (for me) from reading fashion books. However, I am working on writing my own book on fashion, punk style to be specific, and so much of what I have been reading relates to that research. My favorite book of the year on that topic was Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus. I was completely engrossed in this historical account of the ‘90s subcultural movement. Marcus paints vivid pictures not only of the individuals, events and emotions of the period, but includes many facts about body image, dress style, fashion leaders, and visual image development that were pertinent to the time. Everything from writing with Sharpies on the body to baby barrettes, cat eye glasses, and issues of being “pretty” are explored and put in context against not only the mainstream, but also other facets of punk and subculture. I was impressed with Marcus’s attention to detail, thoughtful prose, and obviously exhaustive research. It was refreshing that the inclusions of dress concepts were not afterthoughts, but were important aspects of the text. And personally, it helped me better understand a stylistic genre I lived through and participated in, but for which I didn’t necessarily know all of the origin stories.

I also interviewed Sara for my book and she was a gracious interviewee who helped me navigate her book and provide a little extended insight into some concepts regrading the style of riot grrls. I’d recommend this book, and others that may be about an era or a person yet dive into the style that helped shape their themes. When looking into a biography, or a history of a period of time or social movement, it certainly helps to know how they embodied their dress, and how their dress contributed to why we are familiar with them. Sometimes when doing research you have to search all sorts of texts, not just those dubbed “fashion” to find the best material.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at :, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.