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Fashion and Family History (Paperback)

Interpreting How Your Ancestors Dressed

Family History Social History Photographic Books Colour Books

By Jayne Shrimpton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 20 colour & 75 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526760265
Published: 26th November 2020
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #19

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Studying dress history teaches us much about the past. In this skilfully-illustrated, accessible and authoritative book, Jayne Shrimpton demonstrates how fashion and clothes represent the everyday experiences of earlier generations, illuminating the world in which they lived.

As Britain evolved during the 1800s from a slow-paced agrarian society into an urban-industrial nation, dress was transformed. Traditional rural styles declined and modern city modes, new workwear and holiday gear developed. Women sewed at home, while shopping advanced, novel textiles and mass-produced goods bringing affordable fashion to ordinary people. Many of our predecessors worked as professional garment-makers, laundresses or in other related trades: close to fashion production, as consumers they looked after their clothes.

The author explains how, understanding the social significance of dress, the Victorians observed strict etiquette through special costumes for Sundays, marriage and mourning. Poorer families struggled to maintain standards, but young single workers spent their wages on clothes, the older generation cultivating their own discreet style. Twentieth-century dress grew more relaxed and democratic as popular culture influenced fashion for recent generations who enjoyed sport, cinema, music and dancing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this glimpse into a part of everyone's history, the book was informative and interesting!

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fashion and Family History by Jayne Shrimpton is a comprehensive book that covers all aspects of dress from 1800-1950. The first chapter is a tour de force. I think it’s probably the best account I have read of the changes in costume over the busy period of 1800 – 1950. In 36 pages, Shrimpton gives us detail of women’s, men’s and children’s fashions; and the strict chronological history in each section ensures we understand how one form morphed into another as waistlines moved and sleeves loosened or tightened. When I finished the chapter, I had to go back and read it again because I couldn’t believe that she’d packed in so much so succinctly. Brilliant!


This is a great book and one that I shall re-read for pleasure as well as keeping for reference.

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Another excellent publication from Pen And Sword and Jayne Shrimpton. I love this series of books and they are a constant source of information when I am researching my family history... This was well written and informative and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this to be a fascinating read, and the pictures and illustrations were fantastic. As a Historical Romance author, I have a feeling I am going to be referring back to this book again and again as it is a remarkable resource for the various time periods between 1800 and 1950. I love how it is categorized, and indexed! You can quickly look up very detailed descriptions of clothes worn by the aristocracy in one section, and workman and laborers in another. I found the section on sportswear especially fascinating. Very well written and easy to follow. I think anyone who has any interest at all in history, or fashion would love this book.

NetGalley, Sandra Schehl

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. Though keeping up with modern fashion trends holds no attraction for me, the history of fashion and how it related to life in my favourite eras encompassing 1800 to 1950 is utterly absorbing. Clothing told stories. Still does.

Clothing, of course, is worn for several reasons. This book details information on work wear to bathing costumes to bridal wear to formal evening wear to hairstyles and scores more applications/purposes/events. Upholding status was crucial in this time period, especially 1800-early 1900s and clothing was one of the most prominent ways of displaying it, though often impractical. Gender clothing, including the beginnings of blue and pink, are discussed. There is also information on what men and women wore for leisure and sport including golf, swimming, horseback riding and golf. There are even old clothing advertisements in this book.

Clothing itself and accessories such as fabrics, handkerchiefs, hats, ribbons, lace, boots, stockings, gloves, neckties, etc. are described in wonderful detail. You will learn about portrait photography, what was worn on farms and in cities, how feet were kept warm as well as mourning etiquette. My least liked occupation related to clothing would have been hand washing...talk about involved and tedious.

One of my favourite aspects is the photographs, especially the personal touch of the author's relatives! I am so fortunate to have a very old photo album filled with portraits of my ancestors in my family's possession. It is interesting to note the range of facial expressions from severe and stern in the 1860s to the relaxed grins of the 1950s.

History readers, this is for you whether you are intrigued by fashion or not. It cannot be missed.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton
 Jayne Shrimpton

About Jayne Shrimpton

Jayne Shrimpton is a professional fashion historian and internationally-known ‘photo detective’ with a MA degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. A former Curator at the Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London, she is an independent image consultant, speaker, author and magazine columnist, working primarily in the family history arena. She dates photographs at public events and advises on celebrity photographs, also appearing on-screen for BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? Her books include Family Photographs and How to Date ThemBritish Working DressVictorian Fashion and Tracing Your Ancestors through Family Photographs.

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