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The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  400 ratings  ·  88 reviews
“You can’t have depths without surfaces,” says Linda Grant in her lively and provocative new book, The thoughtful Dresser, a thinking woman’s guide to what we wear. For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in f ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Scribner (first published March 5th 2009)
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Heather
This is one of the emptiest books I've ever read. Ironically, there is very little that's thoughtful about this book. Grant seemingly can't make up her mind about what she wanted this book to be (an autobiography, a biography, a treatise?); she both repeats herself and contradicts herself (which demonstrates the poor organization, poor substantive editing, and poor thinking that riddles this book); she often takes her own assumptions as absolute truths; she doesn't adequately address any of the ...more
WORN Fashion Journal
Have you ever tried to explain to someone why fashion isn’t stupid or meaningless? I have, and it’s not always easy. Lucky for me, Linda Grant has written an entire book in fashion’s defence. Analytical and critical, Grant discusses the symbolism of clothing and adornment throughout history, looking as far back as the Old Testament. Written in a smart, cheeky, and poetic style, almost like a novel, the book draws on Grant’s personal experiences with clothing, demonstrating how intimate a connect ...more
Anna
This book- way more insightful and meaty than the title suggests- is a must-read for any person who wears clothing. Grant is a fashion writer with expensive, haute couture tastes, but the book isn't about labels and name-dropping the movers and shakers of the fashion world. Instead, she skillfully argues that clothing is important because it's what makes us human. Many in this world claim to not care or know much about fashion, but the fact of the matter is that everyone chooses what to put on t ...more
carrietracy
Thoughtful this book was not. It was a highly disorganized jumble of information. I may have been able to forgive or overlook that, because there were some fascinating points and cases mixed in there, but I could not get over the intense snobbishness. I like clothes. I own fairly nice ones, but I do not have a single designer label in my closet. By Grant standards this makes me pretty much a joke of a woman. With all of her intense scrutiny I started to wonder if my entire wardrobe was out of da ...more
Choco-cat
There are snippets of this book that I found interesting – such as the stuff about Catherine Hill. I can see how, after being in the camps, she would want to be surrounded by beauty. And the history of fashion and shopping. And even about the author’s own family – how her immigrant grandparents and her parents used clothing to project onto the society around them.
However, there is so much of the book that I don’t find interesting and even find downright irritating/offensive. Why would the author
...more
Meagan
This is a book of essays about fashion, and you have probably had a gut response to that sentence. You've either thought about the glamour of a beautifully made dress, or you've gagged a bit at the superficiality of it all. What I learned in the course of reading this book is that either reaction is perfectly valid, and both reactions are based in truth.

Clothes are, by their very nature, superficial. We select them, wear them, and discard them often based on a whim or because we're told that "fa
...more
Nina
An extension of this writer's blog, about our relationship to clothes and adornment. Unfortunately, there was so much wrong about this book that I gave it one star. The writer is obsessed with Dior's "New Look" and her history of clothing is somewhat interesting. She lost me with the story of Catherine, a successful retailer in Canada. The whole story of Catherine's Hungarian, middle-class upbringing and then being caught in the Holocaust was gratuitous and to my mind, in extremely poor taste in ...more
Deirdre Kelly
Linda Grant is a very good writer. She is vivid and conversational, smart and funny. It is a pleasure reading her prose. Her book on fashion is problematic, however. It might be how it is structured, a series of personal aperçus into why fashion is not frivolous but actually deeply important, especially to the wearer. She Is something of fashion junky herself and writes often about herself, her fashion obsessions, as well as her upbringing as the daughter of middle class Jews for whom appearance ...more
Kylie
The Thoughtful Dresser claims to be 'the thinking woman's guide to what to wear', but I can't help seeing it is simply a memoir by one thinking woman - novelist and journalist Linda Grant - of her own clothing choices and philosophies. And there's nothing wrong with that. However, this book is not as insightful as it thinks it is. Aside from the fascinating story of Catherine Hill, there is very little depth under the book's surface. Thoughtful dressing, it seems, relies on only wearing designer ...more
Sylvia
I really appreciated this book. It is a thoughtful collection of musings on the relationship between women and clothing. I have always believed that what we wear matters and as I finished this book last night I found myself thinking about my maternal Grandmother Louise. She was a classic Navajo woman who always wore colored skirts and velvet blouses with her hair up in a bun and beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry. She spoke very little English. She didn't shop at department stores or read fa ...more
Clare
"I prefer it that my clothes express something of who I am, conceal as well as they are able my numerous flaws, are aesthetically pleasing, and demonstrate some understanding of style and current trends while not being in thrall to the fashion pages."
Me too!

I am interested in style - both from a historical perspective and from a middle aged (?) mom trying to become a MILF.

This book looks at style and fashion throughout the ages, with a focus on Chanel's iconic style, also juxtaposed with how
...more
Kiwiflora

THE THOUGHTFUL DRESSER by Linda Grant

Linda Grant is an English journalist and author whose book The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize. It was apparent from reading this book last year and her that she has a love of clothing and dress, not just for protection or warmth, and not just to show off brands, size of budget and so on. For her dress and clothing are an integral part of our self expression, who we are and where we have been. This latest book takes a very per
...more
Jane
Clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. This book celebrates the pleasure of our attire and is an elegant meditation on our relationship with what we wear and the significance of clothes as the most intimate but also public expressions of our identity. Linda Grant explores both the dark side and the light side of clothing and fashion. In many ways she makes the point that the attraction of fashion and beautiful clothing is ...more
Jacqui
I really liked parts of this book but was ambivalent or disagreed with other parts. The author mounts a fairly convincing defense, in my opinion, of the love of fashion. “Fashion is largely to do with pleasure, and pleasure is not rational, for we do not choose to eat, say, a chocolate eclair, with the aim to fulfill our daily calorie quota.” A love of beauty, whether you find it in fine art, sunsets, or the draping of a well-constructed garment, is not something to be despised.

She touches on h
...more
Phyllis
This series of meditations on the nature of fashion & style was a roller coaster ride of a book because for every part that made me say GOOD POINT, LINDA GRANT there was a groan-worthy joke about women spending too much money on shoes that cause them excruciating pain and girls love to shop, bla bla bla. This book is meant to make the case for women who love clothes but it's sort of preaching to the choir because I can't imagine anyone who thinks fashion is boring or pointless reading this a ...more
Beverly
I loved this thoughtful and intelligent apologia on fashion, style, and the importance of adornment. I think that these are serious subjects and worthy of the serious, but lightly written, attention Grant gives to them. I was especially moved by the concentration camp stories and brought to tears to read of the Nazis characterizing camp inmates as Stucke or pieces. Clothes gave back the humanity of these tortured victims.

I would have given it 5 stars except for two things. One, it was repetitive
...more
Lauren
Wow. It has been a looooong time since I reviewed any kind of book. And when I started this book, I didn't think I would ever finish it, but last night in the wee hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping I got to the end. Hallelujah - I finally finished a book!

I really, really enjoyed this book. As I have gotten more involved in the style blog community - both with my own blog and in reading others, I felt like this was a good time to explore some deeper thoughts on fashion and styl
...more
Barb
I picked this book up thinking I would like a humorous defense of my desire to shop for clothes. It was way more than I expected. In the very first chapter the author talks about her fascination with a pair of vintage red high heels she once saw in a museum; who they belonged to and what they might have meant to their owner. By the time you find out it was a Holocaust museum, Grant has you hooked on fashion as a metaphor. Between humorous riffs on the vagaries of fashion, she continually pulls y ...more
CuteBadger
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy
Fascinating walk through the 20th century and our relationship with clothing. The author makes an interesting point that when we have lost "everything," chances are, we are still wearing something. She weaves the story of Holocaust survivor and fashion entrepreneur Catherine Hill throughout the narrative, telling the woman's story of maintaining her inner self and later, helping other women find themselves through clothing.

Grant takes what is almost always thought of as a superficial topic and
...more
Susan
Linda Grant can write. She managed to weave her threads of life experiences into a meaningful comment on fashion. I expected superficial...but got depth with history of fashion and
especially who is Catherine Hill. How this book fell into my hands is destiny.
The other plus...for me personally..." for there is nothing worse than being a beige person, leading a beige sort of life." , page eight , I was hooked. Then a second "beige" comment caught my attention, " In a recession you can not allow l
...more
Purva Brown
I liked it. it was like having a long conversation with someone who understood the emotional appeal of clothing and fashion. even though I didn't always agree with the author, I enjoyed this book a great deal. I especially appreciated the historical and biographical material in the book.
Celia Montgomery
This is a very readable series of essays on clothing and human identity. Grant redeems fashion from the critics who dismiss it as vain or shallow, and bring it into a higher realm of artistic and sociological conversation. She can find complex emotion and intellectual calculation in pair of stilletos. The writing is very smart, studded with several carefully constructed surprises.

I was reminded of a one-man play I saw many years ago, in which Robert Wilson, playing Hamlet, used evocative costum
...more
Mary
A book written about clothes, how we think about them, how we perceive them, how they make us feel. I loved that Linda Grant is a writer and not in the fashion business. She is a wonderful, thoughtful writer and explains through stories, interviews, and personal recollections the importance we all put on our clothes even if we think we are not.
Christy S
This is a lovely book, if not life-changing.

Grant's take is that no one, no one at all, doesn't care about what they wear, that what we put on our bodies makes us human.

She holds that clothes are our identifier, life's communicator, an event and a story in every case. It is a history of fashion, a social commentary, a soliloquy to creative wears, a collection of stories of what clothes have done, and can do, in lives. As a whole, this book didn't come together as I would have liked it to, but
...more
Anna
An engaging combination of sociology, history, and memoir. Well-written and humorous at times, but of the fashion/style-related books I've read, this one certainly has the heaviest subject matter. The author spends a couple of chapters chronicling the life of a Holocaust concentration camp survivor who speaks about the role clothing has played in her life (before, during, and after her time in one of the camps).
It's not all dark/heavy, though. The author spends an entire chapter talking about h
...more
Emaly
Assigning a star rating to this book was difficult. I'd probably give it a 2.7 or 2.8. The first 40% of the book was fascinating and brilliant. The last 25 pages were also fascinating, but disturbing. Unfortunately, the middle of the book floundered, alternating between boring, repetitive, and occasionally interesting. One of the most disappointing aspects of this book was the tendency to repeat the exact same sentences and points in the latter half of the book as were used in the first half. If ...more
Maria Longley
What I really liked about this book is that it gave you permission to think about fashion and clothes without needing to apologize for it. There were some very touching stories in here interwoven with thoughts on dressing and clothes. Bits of it got a little ranty, and some bits I don't get generally in real life (designer handbags being that in particular for me, not saying they are wrong, just that I don't get it), but overall I enjoyed this journey with the author looking at clothes even when ...more
Camille Baird
if you have an interest in fashion or you like clothes or you wear clothes this is an interesting book to read regarding making of clohting, wearing clothes, shopping for clothes, caring for clothes, social issues regarding clothing and a basic understanding. It sounds boring but it is actually very informative... so if you love shopping and clothes, you will enjoy it and if you hate shopping for clothes and all the hubub about fashion you will also love it, and come out with a greater appreciat ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
This is such an excellent book! Grant's take is that no one, no one at all, doesn't care about what they wear, that what we put on our bodies makes us human.
She holds that clothes are our identifier, life's communicator, an event and a story in every case. It is a history of fashion, a social commentary, a soliloqy to creative wears, a collection of stories of what clothes have done, and can do, in lives. I love it!

Available at Teton County Library in Nonfiction, call number: 391.2 Grant
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads' database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Linda Grant was born in Liverpool on 15 February 1951, the child of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. She was educated at the Belvedere School (GDST), read English at the University of York, completed an M.A. in English at MacMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and di
...more
More about Linda Grant...
The Clothes On Their Backs When I Lived in Modern Times We Had It So Good I Murdered My Library Upstairs at the Party

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“Clothes as text, clothes as narration, clothes as a story. Clothes as the story of our lives. And if you were to gather all the clothes you have ever owned in all your life, each baby shoe and winter coat and wedding dress, you would have your autobiography.” 12 likes
“Clothes as text, clothes as narration, clothes as a story. Clothes as the story of our lives. And if you were to gather all the clothes you have ever owned in all your life, each baby shoe and winter coat and wedding dress, you would have your autobiography. You could wear, once more, your own life in all its stages, from whatever they wrapped you in when you emerged from the dark red naked warmth of the womb to your deathbed.” 6 likes
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