LITTLE GOLDEN FASHION: For the better part of 18 years at different points in her career, Diane Muldrow has edited Little Golden books, the golden-spined children’s books. Her recently released “Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book” offers simple advice and illustrations from those pageturners. Launched in 1942 for 25 cents each, the classic picture books needed some updating in Muldrow’s view. In her introduction, the longtime editorial director notes that LGBs were released during the dark days of World War II and they’ve been comforting people during trying times ever since. “Ironically, in this health-conscious, ecologically aware age of information, many of us have overborrowed, overspent, overeaten and generally overdosed on habits or ways of life that aren’t good for us — or for our world,” she writes.
A vintage clothing collector, Muldrow said she knew early on that she would want fashion visuals for her book. With more than enough material to choose from, Muldrow said, “Times have really changed — people used to dress so well even on an everyday basis — I thought it would be fun to remind people of that in my book.” (Random House seems to have agreed, considering its 25,000 initial print run. Muldrow will be signing her book Oct. 26 at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s “Ghouls and Gourds” festival and on Nov. 23 at the Brooklyn Museum Children’s Book Fair.)
One of her book’s first bits of advice is “Get dressed first thing. (Sweatpants are bad for morale. Put on something nice!)” In an interview, Muldrow said the fashion illustrations in the vintage books are indicators of their respective eras. “The people are always so well-dressed! The great Golden illustrators of the 1940s and Fifties put so much color, texture, and beautiful detail into the clothing,” she said, noting Corinne Malvern, who worked as a fashion illustrator, commercial artist and at one point Ladies Home Journal’s art editor.
“Tibor Gergely, who illustrated the [shopping] scene I used for ‘Be discriminating,’ did great clothes too. He went to such trouble to paint what would convey the look and feel of tweed on a man’s suit, even if that suit is on a man in a crowd scene. I love his portrayal of the very eager-to-please salesman in the ‘Be discriminating’ scene — by his body language and outstretched fingers, you can almost hear him saying, ‘It’s fabulous!’ And the housewife considering the scarf he’s trying to sell her is dressed in a fur coat, with a red leather clutch and a silk scarf that you can almost feel. Gergely painted her wearing crimson lipstick. She looks expensive.”