Fashion Fads through American History: Fitting Clothes into Context. By Jennifer Grayer Moore. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015. 325 pages. Acid free $89 (ISBN 978-1-61069-901-3). E-book available (978-1-61069-902-0), call for pricing.

Many works have explored the history of dress and its significance in larger cultural movements, such as the detailed overviews of clothing customs addressed in Clothing through American History edited by Amy T. Peterson and Amy T. Kellogg (Greenwood 2008) or the insightful works of Valerie Steele including the Berg Companion to Fashion (Oxford 2010) and Fifty Years of Fashion (Yale 2000). However, most of these works look at the seminal movements and most enduring fashion statements while this volume addresses the more ephemeral but still significant fads in fashion culture.

Moore offers nine common threads that appear in various times frames, including foreign influences, media influences, technology, repurposing, and statement fads, that she then places in chronology. Each grouping provides an introduction to the overarching theme and insight into both the context of individual trends and subsequent reinventions in later decades, presented in chronological order. For example, purple shirts in the mid-nineteenth century parallel arcade watches of the 1980s or cell phone purses at the turn of the twenty-first century as responses to technological advances. This use of both theme and chronology allows for cross-referencing a period while also presenting key trends.

Some of the items are more mainstream while others are more related to subcultures. The focus on these more passing fads does fill a gap, with many items such as the Rachel haircut and leg warmers showing the impacts of media culture on fashion, but some of the more obscure trends, such as grills, could use a bit more context into the subculture as well as the transition into some mainstream aspects. Also, while many of the sections explore the evolution of the fads, such as the Keep Calm t-shirt that ultimately became a gag, other sections could but don’t fully develop the trend’s impacts, such as the Livestrong bracelet which opened up a whole trend of social advocacy. Finally, the photographs throughout the book show the various items, though the reliance solely on black and white doesn’t provide as much insight as color photos would.

While no single volume can fully explore the interactions of society and clothing choices, this volume does meet its purpose “to document fashions that are typically overlooked” (ix) and to demonstrate their cultural relevancy as commentary against more mainstream trends or as part of a subculture. Because of its broad overview and unique perspectives, this volume would be relevant in a wide range of cultural and sociological studies as both a starting point as well as niche focus in gaining a fuller understanding of the nuances within fashion trends.—Donna Church, Reference Librarian, Webster University Library, St. Louis, Missouri


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2021 RUSA