A Perfect Fit by Jenna Weissman Joselit
Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America

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A striking and inventive social history of the role of clothing in the making of modern Americans.

While fashions of the rich and famous have been lessly chronicled, little attention has been paid to the meaning of clothes for everyone else. Yet between 1890 and the outbreak of World War II, as ready-to-wear came into its own, the clothes of ordinary Americans claimed the nation's attention. Allied with civic virtue, fashion now played an increasingly important role in shaping the national character.

Drawing on a wealth of sources -- from advertisements, trade journals, and health manuals to sermons, science, and songs -- acclaimed historian Jenna Weissman Joselit shows how the length of a woman's skirt, the shape of a man's hat, and the height of a pair of heels enabled Americans of every faith, color, and class to feel part of the modern nation. As moral arbiters warned that extravagant attire might undermine equality, and gentlemen worried that wearing colored shirts rered them less manly, the newly arrived and newly emancipated -- immigrants and African-Americans -- wondered just how much jewelry was appropriate to their new status as citizens. Engaging, imaginative, and original, A Perfect Fit uncovers a time in American history when getting dressed was more about fitting in than standing out and vividly shows how clothes expressed the spirit of democracy and the promise of America.

About Jenna Weissman Joselit

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Jenna Weissman Joselit is currently visiting professor of American studies at Princeton University and the author of numerous works of cultural history, including The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950 (winner of the Jewish Book Award in History). Joselit has also curated and consulted on more than thirty exhibitions throughout the country. She lives in New York City.
Published April 29, 2014 by Metropolitan Books. 272 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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(Some years later, she writes, a Catholic priest even developed a line of clothing that, he argued, the Virgin Mary herself might wear were she to reappear on earth.) Drawing on insights from American and cultural studies, Joselit offers an account that is full of fascinating asides and historica...

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Publishers Weekly

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From the 1890s to the 1930s, social historian Joselit (The Wonders of America) argues in this enticingly illustrated volume, fashion was "the most literal expression of who we were as a nation."

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Project MUSE

As fashionable clothing became more available to ordinary Americans, wearing the right suit, the perfect hat, or the appropriate shoes became matters of national pride and moral order.

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