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FASHION RULES! by Gail Skroback  Hennessey


A Closer Look at Clothing in the Middle Ages

by Gail Skroback Hennessey ; illustrated by Tracy Sabin

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-63440-905-6
Publisher: Red Chair Press

A clueless itinerant jester becomes a device for communicating medieval fashion.

After getting fired from his job as a jester for the king, traveling entertainer Bickford arrives in a new village hoping to find work. There, Bickford bumps into Trowbridge, a local, who takes the jester on a tour, pointing out the class differences and social roles to be discerned based on people’s attire, taking care to articulate the potential consequences of breaking the rules. “Those two women are wearing a conical hat called a henin…they are showing that they are very important women by the height of their hats,” Trowbridge lectures, and “It can mean death to anyone outside the royal class who dares to wear purple cloth.” The dialogue throughout is so expository as to feel hopelessly stiff, and the illustrations are likewise bland and posed. Very occasional insets offer further exposition. From a plot standpoint, it is mystifying that Bickford, traveling on foot even “for days,” should be so thoroughly unfamiliar with the mores in a community close enough to his place of origin to share his language. The title of the book is a bit of a misnomer, as well, as the serfs’ tatters would hardly have been considered “fashion.” Bickford and Trowbridge both present white; occasional figures in the background appear to be people of color.

The information is not uninteresting, but its delivery is far from compelling.

(Informational picture book. 6-8)