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Posts Tagged ‘young adult novels’

Here’s the whole outfit: a pair of thick, black tights, with the feet cut off and rolled up to the middle of my calf. The footie part of the sock was hidden inside my shoes – a pair of black dress shoes Mom had bought from a bargain bin for two dollars, not realizing they were boys’. My father’s cadet blue cashmere sweater, too small for his latest girth, but long enough to hit me just above the knees, then hiked up a little thanks to a wide, black belt that gave the illusion that my waist was at least two inches smaller.

Elyse Nebbitt, fictional character in the YA novel, Pudge & Prejudice by A. K. Pittman (Wander Publishers).

As a budding children’s literature writer myself, I read picture books, middle grade novels (that’s what I write), and occasionally young adult novels. This one intrigued me because it’s another spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, reset in 1984. Interesting, because I have heard that currently publishers are turning down anything set in that decade. I suppose what saved this manuscript from the “no thanks” pile is the Jane Austen element. Plus the author has written a couple of other novels, so she already has a platform.

This passage reminded me that in the 1980s I also sported my father’s cashmere navy blue sweater. But I didn’t use it as a dress. I paired it with a longish skirt, wide belt, and boots. Oversized was a definite look in those days. I still wear that sweater!

The 1980s was when everyone really experimented with their style – mixing vintage with new, clashing colors and prints, using accessories in unusual ways. Such fun!

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The bodice was from a red satin gown I found at the thrift store where I work – halter neck, structured, water-stained in a couple of spots. I hacked the top part off the dress, altered it, and water-stained it all over so it looked like a pattern. The skirt was one of the first things I made out of completely new material … At first I made it in a pretty basic shape – fitted at the waist and flaring outward to glorious fullness. A good twirling skirt. But it wasn’t quite speaking to my soul. So, I started adding on to it. I sewed on some ribbons, flowing along the hemline. I added sequins to match. And then I saved up and got myself some fancy fabric paints and painted this wild, multicolored … things all over it. The whole thing came together when I found that red satin gown and realized it was the last piece I needed to turn this initially simple skirt into the beautiful dress it was meant to be.

Kimi Nakamura – protagonist in I Love You So Mochi, by Sarah Kuhn (Scholastic Press).

I can’t resist a novel whose protagonist has a thing for fashion. I Love You So Mochi is a charming young adult novel that tells the story of high school senior Kimi Nakamura and her struggle to figure out what she really wants to do with her life. Her mother wants Kimi to become an artist (what? not a doctor?) but Kimi isn’t feeling it, and is drawn more toward fashion.

Kimi is Japanese American and when her grandparents, whom she has never met, invite her to visit them in Japan, she goes and makes discoveries about her family, herself, and falling in love.

I really enjoyed Kimi’s journey, which speaks to everyone – those of us who already went through this stage and those young ones who are facing their wide open futures right now. The Kyoto travel guide is fun as are the Japanese food references, particularly the mochi. And of course, Kimi’s inspired fashion designs are the most fun.

I Love You So Mochi is an excellent holiday gift choice for any young fashionista.

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IMG_20180325_113517751_HDRPeople laugh at fashion. ‘It’s just clothes,’ they say. Right. Just clothes. Except, not one of the people I’ve heard mock fashion was naked at the time. They all got dressed in the morning, picking clothes that said, ‘Hey, I’m a successful banker.’ Or, ‘I’m a tired teacher’ … a decorated soldier … a pompous judge … a cheeky barmaid … a lorry driver, a nurse … You could go on for ever. Clothes show you who you are, or who you want to be. 

Ella, 14 year-old character in the Young Adult novel, The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington.

The Red Ribbon tells the story of Ella, who as a prisoner of “Birchwood”  (a WWII concentration camp in Poland) struggles to keep hold of her dreams to become a dress designer. With her advanced skills as a seamstress she works in the camp’s sewing workshop where young women make clothing for the wives of Birchwood officials.

I heard an interview with author and costume historian Lucy Adlington on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. Promoting the book she talked about her research and the facts behind slave labor in the camps, including the making of beautiful clothing. Ms. Adlington based her novel on the true story of the Upper Tailoring Studio at Auschwitz, which was put in place by the Commandant’s wife, Hedwig Hoss. She had skilled women prisoners recruited  to make bespoke clothing for her, other officials’ wives, and female guards. Eventually there were 23 seamstresses working in the Upper Tailoring Studio, one of the better jobs to have in such a place.

This is a very interesting piece of fashion history woven into a well crafted novel of horror and hope. Although at times it’s shocking and upsetting, I highly recommend it for just that kind of truth.

I have also read Ms. Adlington’s non-fiction fashion history book, Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear (Random House UK, 2015). Another excellent read for those who love all things fashion history.

Check out her web-page: http://www.historywardrobe.com/index.html

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