Costume In Context: The 1920s And 1930s, by Jennifer Ruby
This book is what really prompted me to read several in a series that show off the author’s interest in unisex drawings that are a bit anachronistic and that use clothing as a way of pointing to social history. This book seems to be written by someone who is both fascinated and repelled by the elite and their ways, an ambivalence that is admittedly pretty common. Like many people as well, the author strikes this reader at least as someone who is sympathetic to the poor but clearly not among them, as this book has a bit of an outsider perspective about the struggle of a man looking for work in the face of the Great Depression. By and large I liked this book better than most, because the people in the book behaved in ways that struck me as humanly reasonable and sometimes generous-minded, and because the fashions were respectable and decent as well regardless of whether the book was looking at the fashions of the poor or of the wealthy. And that makes for an enjoyable book that can definitely be appreciated, which is not something to take for granted.
This book, perhaps unsurprisingly, focuses on the 1930’s and on women’s fashion because there was little variety in men’s fashion from previous decades. The author begins with a look at a wealthy landowner and his wife in 1923, and their children in 1924, as well as their domestic servants in 1925 and the state of fashion as a whole. There is a look at youth fashion, a schoolmistress and her students, a shopkeeper and his, a laborer and his wife, and miners in 1926. The next year sees a wedding of society elites, a bridegroom and wedding guests, as well as Chanel designer clothes. The rest of the book focuses on the 1930’s, with a look at more designer clothes from Shiaparelli, as well as a housewife, a bank clerk and his children, and an unemployed man and his children in 1930, a family trying to make ends meet in 1932, women’s fashion, men’s clothes in the kitchen, and walking clothes in 1933. There are then children’s clothes, looking for work, factory workers, a hot potato man, cleaning fish, a farmworker and his family and a landlady and her daughter in 1934. The Jarrow crusade shows 1936 fashion, and then a shopping expedition in 1937 and some kids fleeing the city in 1939 finish the book, along with a glossary, places to visit, book list, and things to do.