My almost-four-year-old daughter, loves looking at fashion photos - dresses, outfits, hats, jewelry, and other accessories - so I started thinking of ways in which to introduce some family history using her interest in fashion. I ordered a book from Amazon entitled From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America by Leslie Sills. I had never seen this book in person before, and according to the publisher, it was geared towards older pre-teen girls. BUT, it received five star reviews and the reviewers mentioned that there were plenty of photos, so I decided to try it.
I am glad that I did, because it's a wonderful book! The book discusses the styles of garments, shoes, and accessories female children and women wore from the Colonial period all the way up to modern-day fashions. It talks about what types of fabrics were used in each period and HOW garments were made, which actually introduces some great technological and industrial history. The book discusses how major national and world events and famous people influenced fashion. Yes, there is a lot of text, but it is still written very simply and even my young daughter was able to understand many parts (with some explanation) as I read it to her. The illustrations are the true gems of this book; wonderful historical photos, paintings, and sketches of women and girls in all sorts of dress and work outfits.
So what does all of this have to do with teaching my daughter about our family history? Well, now we look at old family photos like the ones below and talk about what the people are wearing. Of course, I also slip in a few details of WHO these people were and HOW they are related to us. And don't forget to examine the men's clothing along with the women's - it can tell you a lot about social status and perhaps even what they did for a living. Examining photo details with kids is a GREAT way to introduce them to one aspect of forensic genealogy - using clues within photos to learn about when, where, and how people lived.
©2014, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder.