________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 14 . . . . December 9, 2016


Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga.

Jennifer Croll. Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2016.
205 pp., pbk., hc., html & pdf, $16.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-785-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-786-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-787-9 (html), ISBN 978-1-55451-788-6 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Fashion-History-Juvenile literature.
Women's clothing-History-Juvenile literature.
Celebrities-Clothing-Juvenile literature.
Costume-History-Juvenile literature.
Women-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Celebrities-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4



Whether they used clothing to gain power, rebel against social norms, or explore their own identity, the forty-three women in this book – queens, actresses, fashion designers, writers, artists, dancers, politicians, academics, socialites, models, musicians, and activists – used fashion to help them change opinions, confront opposition, and make other people look at them in a different light. Across different eras and social settings, they were willing to take risks in order to get what they wanted; they dressed in ways that weren't socially acceptable, that could have cost them their careers, relationships, or reputations. Sometimes, they didn't just change their own lives: they changed the world around them. And as you read about the daring (and sometimes dangerous) clothing worn by women as diverse as the powerful ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and cross-dressing movie star Marlene Dietrich, and the ultra-arty contemporary pop star Lady Gaga, you'll realize that fashion is anything but frivolous.

In Bad Girls of Fashion, author Jennifer Croll covers fashion from ancient Egypt to the modern music scene, exploring 10 famous women in depth and mentioning many more in passing. Featured are Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Vreeland, Madonna, Rei Kawakubo, Kathleen Hanna and Lady Gaga.

      Fashion is hugely important to many women, and their interest often begins when, as tweens and teens, they begin to find their own 'fashion voice'. Croll illustrates that over the years women have used clothing to send clear messages about themselves and the power they possess. Fashion was a way to make a statement, flaunt sexuality and also to rebel when women may not have had other ways to make their point. By showing her readers a wide variety of women over centuries of history, Croll encourages her modern audience to be themselves, whether that means following the fashion trends of the day or choosing to wear something which shows a more personal flair. Her message gives young women the courage to be self-confident and to take risks, whether simply with clothing or with other aspects of their lives.

      Readers will be delighted with the fashions presented throughout the book and will also absorb lots of historical details too. Although Croll does not go into great depth about any of the women, she gives enough information that readers will feel they not only understand the personality involved but also the historical era in which she lived. Fashion is the raison d'etre of the book, but readers also glimpse politics and the arts at various times in history.

      The fashions come to life thanks to the many photos throughout the text as well as the fabulous illustrations of Ada Buchholc which seem to capture the essence of each of the 10 featured women.

      While entertaining and also informative, the book can also be confusing in places. Each chapter begins with basic information about that specific woman: full name, birth date, occupation and "bad girl cred". Oddly, the dates of death are not part of this brief biographical blurb. As well, there are highlights entitled "fashion spotlight" and "iconic looks" which seem to be sprinkled here and there with little thought to chronology. For example, chapter five centres on Marlene Dietrich, born in 1901. Within a few pages, there is a "fashion spotlight" about George Sand who lived almost a century earlier. Back to Dietrich for a few pages and then the "iconic look" of Diane Keaton, a modern film star, followed by a second "fashion spotlight" dealing with Twiggy, the model born in 1949 and famous in the 1960's. This occurs in each chapter, and it feels as though the main story is interrupted by side stories which are not necessarily relevant in that particular time or place.

      Readers will be engaged by the interesting histories of the featured women as well as bits of fascinating trivia sprinkled throughout Bad Girls of Fashion. The prose is easy to read, and, given the nature of the organization, readers can read from beginning to end or simply dip into the chapters of those women who particularly interest them. There are many references included for each chapter if readers wish to pursue any specific topic as well as a list of four books for those who would like further reading on the topic of fashion.


Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - December 9, 2016.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive