Playing with my books this morning, I spotted my pile of Ladybird books from my childhood. I had stacks of them, all the nature and music titles, most of the historical ones, and an assortment of others. The format never changed – a page of text on the left, and illustrations on the right, mostly full page illustrations too in glorious and bright colours.
One of my favourites was from series 601, No 7 – The Story of Clothes and Costume, first published in 1964, with text by Richard Bowood, and illustrations by Robert Ayton. I like the way the title distinguishes between clothes and costume, practicality and decoration. The book goes from cavemen in furs, through togas, wimples, chain mail, ruffs, farthingales, lace, wigs, Beau Brummell, crinolines and bustles, flapper dresses to the dress of ‘today’.
Naturally, I’d like to share selections with you. Firstly, my favourite illustration as a child – from the Medieval Court of around 1360.
The man in the front of the picture wears very wide sleeves, which are ‘dagged’ or cut. He has rather long hair and such very long toes to his shoes that they have to be fastened to his legs with thin chains.
There were strict laws about dress … Even the length of the pointed shoes was regulated by law, allowing different lengths for nobility, gentlemen and commoners.
Those shoes would crop up in my own drawings many a time, and I dressed many of my medieval
princesses ladies in flowing gowns and wimples!
Upon revisiting this book, I have a new favourite though – the last spread – Clothes of Today (click to enlarge). The family pictured are such archetypes of new middle-class suburbanites out for a picnic. I’ve included the hilarious text this time too…
Such wonderful stuff!
If you’d like to find out more about Ladybird Books, do visit The Wee Web which has information on all the old publications and collecting them. (I note that they have a first edition of this book for sale at £34. Sadly, mine is not a first, and – I’ve coloured in the endpapers and it had Thorn family library paraphernalia in!) Ladybird themselves are still going strong, as part of Penguin children’s books.