Women in Clothes isn’t exactly a book. It’s more of a 514 page encyclopedia; reference material that addresses the why of getting dressed.
Writers Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton sent out surveys to more than 600 women with an ever-evolving list of questions. Here’s a small sample of those questions:
When do you feel most attractive?
Do you think style is related more to one’s character or one’s body?
What are you trying to achieve with your dress?
Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
Do you consider yourself photogenic?
In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
The survey respondents / contributors to the book range in age from 5 to 95 with a variety of cultures including Orthodox Jews, French, Muslims, Korean and Brownstone Brooklyn. Famous people like Lena Dunham, Kim Gordon, Molly Ringwald and Cindy Sherman also share their stories.
True to encyclopedia format, the compilation of information is portrayed through a variety of elements. Visual projects include a handwriting demonstration used to present oneself, personal collections (grid-like photos) which include white nightgowns, over-the-knee socks, and prescription eyeglasses, and the Mothers as Others series which asked the respondents to submit a photo of their mom before kids, and talk about that woman in the photograph.
I particularly enjoyed looking at the Shopping Trails which were the paths made while walking through various stores. Being that I am very familiar with the layouts of these stores, it was fun to see how other women found their way around Century 21, All Saints and H&M.
And while many may consider fashion a frivolous topic, Women In Clothes is anything but that. Threads of feminism weave through the stories which valley deep into the emotional components our clothing reveals.
The Mom Coat told the story of stay-at-home mom, Amy Fusselman’s relationship to the sleeping bag she walked around in.
Climbing into my gray Mom Coat every morning felt like hunkering down to get through this journey. This part of my day, from 7:45 to 8:45am was always gray, black or gray-black, and I needed all the Kleenex, Altoids and Squinkies I had floating around in every one of my Mom Coat pockets to through it.
Tavi Gevinson’s Color Taxonomy was also a highlight.
Gray was made for nice sweaters and gross sweatpants, thus covering both ends of the Sunday-spent-at-home spectrum: prodcutive lazy (tea, reading) and plain lazy (junk food, TV).
As was Posturing with Zosia Mamet.
But the most profound take away was the emphasis on ethical fashion which is interspersed into many of the dialogues, and truly hit home in the conversation called The Factory Collapsed, a first hand account of 18 year old garment worker and survivor of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh.
It woke me to the reality of shopping fast fashion, and how easy it is to disassociate from the foundation of that infrastructure. The fashion industry is digging its grave as we – the consumers- provide the shovel.
Buy the book here.