Title: 50 Underwear Questions: A bare-all history
Publisher: Annick Press, Ltd.
Publication Date: July 7, 2011
Genre: Non Fiction, Middle Grades, YA, Picture Book, History
Other books in the series:
50 Burning Questions: A sizzling history of fire
50 Poisonous Questions: A book with bite
How I Got It: NetGalley for review
This was a cool history book. I'm not quite sure who the audience would be, but I sure enjoyed it. Kyi traces the history of underwear, from prehistoric to modern day underwear and styles. Readers learn how religion, nobility,pop culture, war, wealth, and access to new materials affected styles and the underwear beneath.
- In the 1520s men wore pads under their hose to emulate Henry VIII calves.
- European countries passed laws to prevent the lower classes from embroidering their clothes like the upper classes did.
- Corsets were invented when women tried to emulate Catherine De'Medici's 33 inch waist.
- Why in the world were hoop skirts invented? To better show off the expensive fabrics used in the dress. Metal cages like farthingales or panniers required specially made furniture, learning a new way to sit down without flashing the crowd, and occasionally being too wide to pass through a doorway. (one also had to be careful when passing fireplaces, dresses did occasionally catch on fire.)
- even in the 1940s researchers advocated the use of girdles as it was believed that women were "scientifically less able than men to stand upright, so they required the extra support of a foundation garment."
- During the Vietnam War, some soldiers found the jungle too hot and humid for underwear. The term "going commando" was very literal.
50 Underwear Questions is a neat look at a different aspect of history. I got caught up in the history and culture that affected not only the way we dress and the types of lives we lead (I mostly mean women). Kinnaird's humorous illustrations work well with the book's layered format. Along with the main text and pictures, Kyi has included extra trivia and notes in the margins and in little tags called "Private Parts". There is even the occasional "experiment" you can try at home, like using string and a hula hop to better appreciate the difficulties of simply sitting down in a hoop skirt. While a strangely great book, it's probably best for older kids as younger readers might not be able to stop giggling or fully understand the social and historical implications Kyi talks about.
My favorite part:
When women first started wearing pants Kyi likened the uproar to the equivalent of lingerie models suddenly popping off the page of a magazine and skipping through downtown. She took a rather sarcastic stance when writing about some of the social implications that wearing pants brought up:
- "If women are willing to wear their underwear in public or appear in divided pants like me, what else might they do?
- What if women are so influenced by wearing bloomers that they start thinking and speaking like men?
- What if women start drinking in pubs and leave their babies to be cared for by their husbands?
- What if thees newfangled bloomers completely destroy decent American society?"
50 Underwear Questions is a very different but very neat book. It's a deceptive read, you think you're going to get something cutesy on bloomers vs. the Wonder Bra and you actually get an entertaining book on history, society, pop culture, and how it all affected what you wear underneath. I'm not really sure who the audience, but if you enjoyed the Horrible Histories or you're a trivia geek like me, you might enjoy it. It's a little something different but fun, take a look at it next time you're at the library.
Book Lover's Paradise review
Sara Thompson's GoodReads review