I came across an article on the book Women In Clothes edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton somewhere on Twitter decrying it as the beginning of the in depth analysis of the clothes that women wear and more importantly why they wear them. Having read ootd/fashion/style blogs for over 5 years now, I couldn’t see how it was being heralded as a new area.
I re-read the article a few month later when Sheila of Ephemera (who was among the first blogs I followed) recommended the book. Perhaps the article stressed the academic side too much, as I was surprised as how unsurprising the book itself was.
Women in Clothes takes a look at personal fashion choices in a multi-media format. While there are selections from style surveys both solicited and voluntarily, it also includes interviews with designers and people who wear their clothes. There are even emails and phone call transcripts from the editors and they speak about their clothing and the development of this book. Interspersed are also art pieces relate to clothing.
It was interesting to see the different histories people brought to their wardrobe and the stories associated with particular items. I enjoyed that most sections were only a few pages long (I believe the longest was 17 eReader screens), making it easy to pick up and put down as needed (it was my “late night feeding” book).
It lacked anything revolutionary in my mind. There were carefully selected and grouped excerpts of stories and responses but no analysis. Perhaps they meant to highlight the inherent “personal” aspect of “personal style,” which they did achieve. However, I didn’t feel this book took the subject of personal style as far into the academic world as I had hoped.
It did make me think, nonetheless. Most interesting, or perhaps the pieces that stuck with me the most, were two perspectives on overseas manufacturing. One posited that boycotts of companies who took advantage of poorer country’s labour laws to reduce manufacturing costs would not provide any benefit to the workers in these factories. The other told the horrifying tale of a survivor of the Rana factory collapse that shook the North American clothing conscience. With only anecdotal accounts, it left me with feeling “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Now getting dressed just makes me conflicted
Book: Women In Clothes
Author: Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton
Features: Mixed format
Who should read it: Anyone interested in getting inside the brain and closet of a woman.