Review: Women in Clothes

img_1852Summer vacation reading.

Last year in Barbara’s Fibre 300 Selvedge/Salvage course she assigned a couple readings from Women in Clothes by Shelia Heti, read Heidi Julavits, abortion Leanne Shapton and many many others. I loved what little we read and purchased the book very soon after. It was the book that I toted with me everywhere this summer and shared with anyone who would listen to me.

The book began as a survey with 50 questions aimed to challenge women to think about their personal style. Artists, activists, writers, and more answered the questions in their own way and style. Each page is a surprising gem of stories about women, why they wear what they wear, how it makes them think, feel and present themselves. Photos of personal collections such as striped shirts, glasses, gray sweatshirts, unworn necklaces or bobby pins. Photos of the contributors Mother’s before the daugher’s were born. Photocopies of women’s hands with their ring collections. Conversations about compliments, interviews, story telling, poetry and essays.

My favourite and most inspired discoveries were the sections providing only a word or two on a subject matter. The contributors would then tell a short story, sometimes a line or a paragraph elaborating. Words such as colour, strangers, shopping, protection, or worn to name a few.

My personal favourite, under the topic worn:

“I try not to dress in something that would be more important to me than having a good time. I wouldn’t want to stop doing something for fear that my outfit would get ruined or weird looking in the act of having fun.” -Annemieke Beemster Leverenz.

On reflecting on a cherished garment that was lost by a friend:

“I would have liked to participate in the item’s fate. At the very least I wanted to be the person who lost it.” – Elena Megalos

I savoured every page of this book and felt a severe loss when I closed the final page. It affected the way that I approached my closet and why and how I was adding things to it. Upon completion I felt little emotional attachment to my clothes that weren’t special and I had no problem donating the majority of it to friends, family and charities. Everything that stayed and has been added since must fulfill the identity of “Future Julie.” I consider what items would I pack on vacation, what makes me feel comfortable, happy, or put together (anything black, white, 5 sizes too big and at least double the price than I should be spending). Ultimately I started to think about who I wanted to be when I grew up (28 is still a teen in my eyes), what she wore and what those clothes said about her.

Throughout this book I discovered things that I also felt about specific garments but had not realized. It is by far the most thoughtful collection of writing on style and taste. It made me truly comprehend how clothes are so much more than what we put on our bodies.