More than anything in my life I have been interested in human expression. This may all sound silly but it isn’t. Clothing is one of the most efficientMore than anything in my life I have been interested in human expression. This may all sound silly but it isn’t. Clothing is one of the most efficient forms of communication and expression. It reflects personal style, but personal style is more than just clothing, it is a way of living, it’s consciousness, philosophy, and, according to Alexander Nagel in this book, the way we move through the world and the way the world moves through us. I’m not sure I want to spend more time convincing anyone why clothing is important, so if you don’t get it, get lost. People with great style, Nagel says, are constantly relearning. I am in the process of this relearning. I wish I had better methods of implementing this.
Maybe tomorrow during my lunch break I will go try on some leather jackets and find some more “apocalypse” boots, as my friend calls them. My current pair of boots are black suede and leather and they immediately got a hole in the suede, but I still wear them anyways because it is the most powerful item of clothing I own, it changes me completely in terms of gait and confidence; I've never felt sexier. After boring teenage years and colorful college years I am finding myself in a punk phase, a phase that is completely inappropriate to my job and life but maybe I am still young enough to pull it off? I don’t have the confidence to do that, though, and punk clothing reminds me of those awful kids in high school I hated, so it’s mostly manifested in leather boots and dark henleys, my favorite of which I found on the discount rack at the Gap and is dyed with the indigo used to color jeans. And let’s be real, the only reason why I started wearing henleys is because a boy I had a major crush on in high school wore them. He was the only boy I had met (god, still probably true) who had read Moby-Dick “because he got bored.” I don’t know what any of this means or what it says about me. I know I probably won’t buy any leather jackets because I haven’t made up my mind what it means to wear leather, though I also haven’t made up my mind what it means to wear Gap clothing when it’s probably made in some terrible factory, though really, if I stop buying from there would the factory lay off its desperate workers, and would they be forced into a more dangerous trade, like prostitution? (That’s a dilemma I can’t win.) I don’t know what that means about me either, but I know these clothes reflect something about me that I haven’t managed to express in the simplest and most efficient way, a way that my words would probably never properly describe, and in a way that may give you some slight understanding about me.
This book has conversations about all of these topics with approximately 640 women (and a handful of men). It’s a fascinating book that has a playful, fragmented organization. It’s not prescriptive in any way, it’s not going to tell you what to buy to accentuate your ass, but it will ask you to explore why you want something to do that for you. (Carmen Joy King: “Do I need people to look at me? Yes. I mean, what’s the point of being in the world if we’re not looking at one another?”) It has some nice illustrations from Leanne Shapton and is pretty experimental at times when it comes to its features. It’s more inclusive than exclusive and explores how women of all genders, orientations, age, occupation, and nationality interact and form meanings with their clothes. It’s worth taking a look, in my opinion.
Excerpts from Women in Clothes:
"Clothes that list more than one fiber are undesirable. Too many fiber types seems like a sad statement of late-stage capitalism, like, ‘We had some surplus angora, nylon, and elastane lying around so we threw in five percent of each with your wool sweater. Hope you like it!’"- Jennifer Armbrust
"When you witness beauty, it’s visceral—there is no second guessing it. Plato says that feeling of absolute knowing can inspire the beholder to quest after a similar revelation in other disciplines of life—poetry or music or science, for example. The ultimate experience of eros, then, is one that inspires you to live in a questioning, questing way, seeking truth in all areas of life. Ergo, true beauty turns you into a philosopher!" -Liane Balaban
"I’m trying to get used to the idea that you wear things and they wear themselves out and you find new things. It’s okay." -Mimi Cabell
"My dog ate my shoes. I liked them. I want them back. I want my dog back." - Alexa S.
”I want these worn things back. I miss having clothing that I feel connected to.” - Allison D
"I see the world as an execrable place, lurking with humiliations, and dressing to go out is the last link to a fantasy I once had of what going out would be like—indeed, the only shred remaining of an early promise that the world would not be bereft of the feelings I had learned to desire from it in movies and books." -Ida Hattemer-Higgins
"Clothes seem like literature to me. The text of a dream." -Eileen Myles
3.5, Still too uneven for me, but getting better with each collection. There are some real gems to be found here, particularly in the last section-- "3.5, Still too uneven for me, but getting better with each collection. There are some real gems to be found here, particularly in the last section-- "The Dream of Mourning," "Autumnal," "Portrait."...more
This book could have a great pulp-erotica cover and a tagline like SHE WOULD DO ANYTHING. . . FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, but instead it’s tastefully coveredThis book could have a great pulp-erotica cover and a tagline like SHE WOULD DO ANYTHING. . . FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, but instead it’s tastefully covered up by an intriguing and surrealistic front (it’s actually a great design.) I can only imagine the bewilderment of some people who were expecting a much more serious, literary book. Take for example, our current most popular review of this book, a one-star rating by a reviewer who is disappointed that this book wasn’t written with “heart,” and frankly seems outraged that these characters aren’t likable or very realistic, and going so far as to say that the New York Times unfairly “courted feminists” to read this book. Poor soul.
I suppose it’s easy to be blinded by its serious environmental concerns, but to take it too seriously is to miss out on some great fun. Our main character is Tiffany, a somewhat lazy environmentalist who marries the first man who proposes to her and eventually falls into some destructive habits like not going to work and eco-terrorism. Her defining characteristic, as told to us by many characters, is that she has a “one-track mind.” Yes. And prove it she does, many times. Now, I’m not suggesting that this book lacks actual serious concerns or that its literary value is thrown out the window because of sex, but this should act as a major clue about the attitude this book is presenting. This book is somewhat a parody of those erotic novels that lazily attempt some late-game feminism after 200 pages of sexual exploitation, but that’s not to say that this books fails at executing character development or that it’s not both fun and a serious attempt at understanding one’s approach to living, dying, and how to love.
That being said, the most common words I see reading reviews for this book are words like “wild,” and “bewildering,” and it reads at times like a dream, its behavior almost as surrealistic as its cover, major events coming fast at you with none of the usual sentimental preamble. It’s easy to make the mistake of trying to rationalize it--its as messy and volatile as life actually is. Its characters are hard to deal with, aggressively unlikable in an everyday sense yet intensely pleasurable in their humor, and many reviewers make the mistake of trying to legitimize Tiffany’s dubious behavior as somehow feminist. Any attempt at transforming Tiffany into a role-model of any kind is an act of absurdity so large that it would not feel out of place gracing the pages of this very book. Best to let these characters be themselves, here.
This book is definitely not going to be for everyone, and that one star reviewer has some concerns I may agree with (though I disagree with most). The NYT reviewer mentions that Zink got her start writing “impromptus” for her friends, and in a way this reads like a continuation of that: amusingly dirty, and filled with what must be satire of German environmental groups that only Zink and her pals would only really get. Maybe that’s some of the magic here--it’s wild, fun, personal, and doesn’t really give a damn if you get it. It’s complex enough that I feel this review didn’t quite do it justice in capturing its spirit, and it may require rereading for me to understand what it’s exactly trying to say, if it’s trying to say anything at all....more
Spoiler alert: everything is blurry everything you see is just yourself refracted into a million little earth-pieces you are everything and everythingSpoiler alert: everything is blurry everything you see is just yourself refracted into a million little earth-pieces you are everything and everything you read is just yourself and your own memories and ideas and if that is so then perhaps you are really the co-writer of everything you have ever read. This is all a gift.
This book is wonderfully illustrated/designed by Peter Mendelsuhn, book designer extraordinaire, which makes for an odd reading experience because the result of all this great imagery is that he contradicts his own arguments. He says what you see when you read is just your own blurred memories and imaginings grafted onto the page, “imaginatively translating, associatively translating” the text, except not really for this book because Mendelsuhn has provided crystal-clear images for you, insisting we look at his own images and experiences here. But I imagine he is correct about how we read every other book.
Really intelligent stuff on seeing and understanding and the mental processes of reading (most of the the time, though I got the feeling in some of the earlier chapters that removing the pictures would just make the actual words appear repetitive, simple, and shallow). Worth a look....more