“Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History” by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2019. 324 pages. $28 Hardcover; $14.99 Kindle
Jackie Kennedy’s little pink suit splotched with the blood of President Kennedy’s assassination became an indelible 1960s icon and cultural image as did her trademark pillbox hats. “Worn on This Day” seeks to explore other clothing that has left a mental image on the nation’s psyche via its association with watershed moments in United States and world history.
“Worn” is a visually-pleasing, photo-saturated retrospective of fashion history with the added spin of historical significance. Some of the better-known clothing profiled or pictured in this volume include Muhammed Ali’s African-themed boxing robe, Margaret Thatcher’s black handbag, Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, Mata Hari’s dance costume and Marilyn Monroe’s form-fitting rhinestone evening dress in which she sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK. Interspersed among these historic garments are unusual military costumes, wedding dresses of the rich and famous, court presentation clothing, old-fashioned bathing costumes, and sports uniforms from several eras.
The book is organized by the month and day on which the garment or accessory was worn and noted in the press or by contemporaries. This makes browsing a little more difficult than if a true chronological format from oldest to newest had been used. There are also several clothing items of legendary status that do not appear. For example Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, Red Cross nursing capes from World War I, and the coonskin caps of the American frontier often associated with Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
“Worn” also misses some general fashion trends in its quest to capture items associated with particular history makers. No earth shoes, leisure suits, Nehru jackets, poodle skirts or saddle shoes appear in its pages.
For readers who identify most closely with what they wore on a momentous occasion rather than the music they heard or the food they ate, this book is a nostalgic window on the past for aspiring fashionistas and dapper dudes who like stylish duds. Author Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is a fashion historian, curator and journalist living in Los Angeles. Her previous book is “Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette”
Lisa Kobrin is the Reference Manager and Local History Librarian at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at email@example.com.