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Fashioning Modern Femininity in the Twentieth Century

Author: Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell




About This Book

In a sparkling, beautifully illustrated social history, Skirts traces the shifting roles of women over the twentieth century through the era’s most iconic and influential dresses.

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Book Details

In a sparkling, beautifully illustrated social history, Skirts traces the shifting roles of women over the twentieth century through the era’s most iconic and influential dresses.

While the story of women’s liberation has often been framed by the growing acceptance of pants over the twentieth century, the most important and influential female fashions of the era featured skirts. Suffragists and soldiers marched in skirts; the heroines of the Civil Rights Movement took a stand in skirts. Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe revolutionized modern art and Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes in skirts. When NASA put a man on the moon, “the computer wore a skirt,” in the words of one of those computers, mathematician Katherine G. Johnson. As women made strides towards equality in the vote, the workforce, and the world at large, their wardrobes evolved with them. They did not need to "wear the pants" to be powerful or progressive; the dress itself became modern as designers like Mariano Fortuny, Coco Chanel, Jean Patou, and Diane von Furstenberg redefined femininity for a new era.

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell's Skirts looks at the history of twentieth-century womenswear through the lens of game-changing styles like the little black dress and the Bar Suit, as well as more obscure innovations like the Taxi dress or the Pop-Over dress, which came with a matching potholder. These influential garments illuminate the times in which they were first worn—and the women who wore them—while continuing to shape contemporary fashion and even opening the door for a genderfluid future of skirts. At once an authoritative work of history and a delightfully entertaining romp through decades of fashion, Skirts charts the changing fortunes, freedoms, and aspirations of women themselves.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Press



In The News

“Fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell recounts the history of 20th century womenswear, highlighting monumental styles—like Chanel's Little Black Dress and Dior's Bar Suit—that changed how women dress for work and home forever.” –Fortune

“An entertaining and insightful look at the evolution of the skirt across the 20th century… Exquisitely detailed and evocatively written, this stylish history casts an underappreciated garment in a rewarding new light.” –Publishers Weekly

“A social history that encompasses feminism and women’s evolving status in society…fans of women’s history, as well as Richard T. Ford’s recent Dress Codes, will enjoy.” –Booklist

“From the little black dress to the miniskirt to the bodycon dress, fashion can tell us a lot about our values and priorities. Historian and journalist Chrisman-Campbell provides a fascinating look into what dresses can tell us about our past and our future.” --Bookriot

“A love letter to the many-faceted qualities of the skirt and a fascinating look at how the skirt has changed - from who is wearing it to how it reflects the times we live in.” –Alexandra Shulman, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue and bestselling author of Clothes and Other Things That Matter

"This spirited social history unpacks the power and politics of the dress with wit, substance, and style.” Margot Mifflin, author of Looking for Miss America

"Smart and snappy...'the skirt' is an overlooked part of our social, feminist history." Paulina Bren, author of The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free

“A must-read for anyone interested in fashion and sex.” Vicky Tiel, fashion designer and author of It’s All About the Dress

About the Creators