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My love for fashion and the shaping of my own aesthetic began with children’s books. The beauty of these illustrated worlds, detailing the characters’ environment, daily lives and fashions, captivated me. Children’s fashions are timeless and many children’s books demonstrate just how enduring they are. I selected here the books I grew up with and the ones I’ve read to my own children. Some celebrate high fashion and the power of a signature look and others quietly espouse sustainability and slow fashion.
By Ludwig Bemelmans
In publishing Madeline in 1939, Ludwig Bemelmans invited his readers into a poignant, painterly Parisian world, a Paris of the Opera, Place Vendome, and Notre Dame. I adored brave and independent Madeline, the smallest of twelve girls living in a French boarding school. His sweet sketches of Madeline in her sailor dresses, overcoats and Mary Jane shoes have since inspired schoolgirl uniforms everywhere.
Mitford at the Fashion Zoo
By Donald Robertson
Animals take center stage in this fashion romp centering on Mitford, a giraffe and fashion ingénue, getting his break to work at Cover magazine during New York Fashion Zoo Week. Humorous animal versions of the real life fashion icons are delightfully named Panda Summers, Zap Possum and Shark Jacobs. Author Donald Robertson’s energetic freehand sketches bring the excitement of the NY fashion world to his audience. Robertson is the creative director in the fashion industry and a celebrated fashion illustrator – follow him at @drawbertson.
Little House on the Big Woods
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
The classic story of Laura Ingalls and her family epitomizes the value of slow living. From creating a beloved doll from a simple corncob to the careful mending of their clothing, the Ingalls live sustainably and extend the life of their everyday things. The beautifully illustrated drawings show the Ingalls sisters in their classic pinafores and apron dresses. I’ve always loved Laura’s description of their visit to the general store and how they delighted in viewing the calicos, each one more beautiful than the next. With few garments, their dresses were made to last, each sewn with great care and love.
By Kay Thompson, illustrations by Hilary Knight
What could be more fashionable than living at the Plaza Hotel? Eloise lives large on the “tippy top floor of the Plaze” with her Nanny, dog, and turtle, dining on room service and creating her own self-imposed activities. Author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight delightfully reveal the rich tapestry of people living in the posh, rarefied world of the Plaza.
The Super Adventures of Sophie and the City: All In a Day’s Work
By Kelly Floria Kasouf’s and illustrations by Judit Garcia-Talavera
In the first of her Sophie series, Kelly Floria Kasouf brings the world of high fashion to life through the eyes of Sophie who finds adventures on the floors of her father’s publishing office. Sophie visits the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and tours Fashion week in NYC. The illustrations of NYC fashion landmarks and haute couture are rendered in vivid painterly style, showing the glamorous and exciting milieu of NY fashion.