Monday, 23 October 2017

'Women in clothes' - Book Review

'Women In Clothes' is not like any other book that you will find in the fashion section of a bookshop. For a start, unlike any other books that I have picked up and flicked through, an author doesn't tell you 'how to dress' and 'what to wear'. It isn't one person's 'rules', but the thoughts, conversations, stories and illustrations of over 639 people.

It all began with a survey of over 50 questions, selected by the three editors, Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton. The list of questions was 'designed to prompt women to think more deeply about their personal style'.
It is a chunky book that uses a wide range of methods, to record the many different things that influence what someone chooses to wear, and their personal style - from surveys and transcripts between friends, families and strangers, to projects, and collections of photos of clothing, that have accumulated in someone's wardrobe over several decades. 
Whether we love clothes or not, it is something that everyone does daily, so it is interesting to hear from women of all ages and backgrounds about their style - not just those with a background in the fashion industry or constantly in the media spotlight (although of course there are a few designers and celebrities that appear, such as Cindy Sherman and Lena Dunham, who have equally good stories to tell).

Above, a lady imitates poses from the front covers of fashion media.

One of my favourite parts of this book is the section where several of the contributors were requested to send in some photos of their mothers, before they had children and describe what they saw.
There are such a variety of stories behind the outfits worn, where they are in the photo, and how their children feel about what they are wearing.
Another part that particularly stood out to me was the article called 'Clothes On The Ground' (page 225) by journalist Julia Wallace, made up of several interviews with Cambodian garment workers, for whom, on only $80 a month, shopping and style choices are limited. Here are a few extracts from the article:

"...Sometimes I might only have 10,000 riel in my pocket, but a shirt or something will be so nice that I'll just pay for the shirt and not buy the food."

"...because we don't have money, we don't think a lot about the style of clothes. We just try to find something."

"When I'm sewing seams, I always think that these jeans must be very expencive, they cost at least $40 to $50 per pair, and I'm wondering how those people afford those expencive jeans while my salary is so small."

"I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a garment factory. I dream of having my own business. I would sell noodle soup."

             Are there any fashion trends you've refused to participate in, and if so why?

The pictures above show the way clothes can dramatically change how we are percieved. Six strangers wear each others outfits and it completely alters their character and how comfortable they seem.

                       What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

           Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

It is the perfect book to dip in and out of, filled with lots of little bite-sized converstations, articles and interviews and I like to just open up on a random page and see what it says.
It is a very honest book that doesn't feel filtered or airbrushed - the stories are personal and often very relatable.
I love how some of the answers to questions, and people's thoughts on certain prompts (such as 'Handmade', 'Glamour', '40's, and 'Closets') are grouped together so you can easily see the diversity in opinions and reactions and how one thing can have so many different meanings for each person.

Its really interesting to read about style in a more personal way rather than as just a set of rules, and what's great about this book is that, as the title suggests ('Women In Clothes' instead of 'Clothes on Women') the women who wear the clothes, and their stories, are the most important part of the book.
You can find 'Women In Clothes' here!

                                                                                          Beccy x


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