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Women in Clothes

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,114 ratings  ·  310 reviews
Women in Clothes is a book unlike any other. It is essentially a conversation among hundreds of women of all nationalities—famous, anonymous, religious, secular, married, single, young, old—on the subject of clothing, and how the garments we put on every day define and shape our lives.

It began with a survey. The editors composed a list of more than fifty questions designe
Paperback, 515 pages
Published September 4th 2014 by Blue Rider Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  2,114 ratings  ·  310 reviews

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File under "What was I thinking?"

I guess I was thinking how I've been known to give a good rant about the lack of quality in clothing, the preposterous "shoulds" women cling to about what to wear, the ridiculous lengths some people go to to fit in with the fad of the moment, and why the hell anyone would pay more than the average American's monthly mortgage for a handbag. Since the synopsis said the material was funny and thoughtful, I guess I was thinking it would be funny and thoughtful. Say
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, clothes
Second review (read August 2020)

Just as delightful the second time around.

First review (read January 2015)

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” — Orlando, Virginia Woolf

This book! Has utterly jumpstarted my year, because it seems to be all I can think and talk about. THIS is the book about women and clothes that I have always been looking for, and I think the editors k
Victoria Weinstein
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I don't know that I will ever officially finish this book. I am checking in now to say that while I am enjoying picking through it for meaningful and coherent bits, it is a conceptual and aesthetic/design mess. How could a book on style have so little of it? The experience of reading this book is like finding a researcher's file cabinet full of random folders of interviews, sitting down with a cup of coffee and a pile of those folders at your side and sifting through them. It is in desperate nee ...more
Jul 07, 2015 added it
It’s too bad, I loved this initially but after plodding through about 70 pages I need to abandon. The survey questions are great and there are thoughtful pieces in here and great photos of everyone’s moms. But the gimmicks are numerous and it gets tiresome. Transcripts of chatter among ladies at a clothing swap, poems comprised solely of the names of textiles, watercolors in the shape of clothing stains - this all ranges in effectiveness but overall it seems like no one knew when to stop. There ...more
Melanie Page
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Women in Clothes (2014, Blue Rider Press) is an anthology unlike any kind before it. At 515 pages, you may wonder what so many women have to say about their clothes, their relationship to clothes, and what they think of other women’s clothes. In 2013 I was still an active on Facebook (you won’t find me there now). Sheila Heti was a FB friend of mine, though we didn’t really know each other. She had done a reading at my college, and I liked that her work was odd, and that she, too looked unique i ...more
Becky Shaknovich
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the best book I've ever read. ...more
RH Walters
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sampled
This thick book was due back at the library before I could finish it, but it contained some unforgettable, thought-provoking stuff. I particularly enjoyed Lena Dunham's idea of the perfect outfit (velvet or stiff taffeta party dress, nubby tights, flats and big wool coat with a hood in case she needs to go out on a secret mission); the struggles of a transgender woman trying to look feminine in the summertime; women admiring pictures of their mothers before they had children; a Muslim woman's qu ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Women in Clothes’ collects a sprawling project interviewing (mostly American) women about what they wear and what clothes mean to them. Reading it is inevitably a rather fragmentary experience, as each snippet is only a few pages of the five hundred total. There are also plenty of illustrations, giving the air of a lengthy, intellectual magazine. At first I preferred to read only a small amount of it at time, before getting immersed. I think what makes the project compelling is starting to refl ...more
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Don’t read this book because you’re looking for a conclusion about how we (or you) dress like you do. Or maybe you’ll find a conclusion, but I can guarantee the authors aren’t going to hand you one. This book is interesting because there’s not one message or one thing the authors/editors are trying to convey. They asked a wide variety of women (age, location, race, religious affiliation, etc.) various open-ended questions about clothes and dressing and appearance and they let those women take it ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 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 w ...more
Andrea McDowell
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
I finally finished this book.

It took me several months to make my way through it; this was not, for me, a pick-it-up-and-finish-it-in-one-go kind of book. That's not necessarily a bad thing; I have a lot of books in the slow-read category that I work my way through in bits and pieces over the long haul, sometimes years.

But in the case of Women in Clothes, it wasn't necessarily a good thing, either.

It aims to legitimize the concerns about dress--what to wear, when, why, and what that clothing co
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This is not a book to borrow from the library as I did after hearing the authors interviewed on NPR. It is interesting research about how women develop their dressing style and their reasons behind what motivates them to buy what they buy and dress as they do. It is a book for those who want to understand women's psychic or those who like women's magazines and will wish to read an article now and then. They could get a "fix" many times during a year because there is so much food for thought in t ...more
Fraser Simons
Absolutely a modern classic, to my mind. I haven’t much of an interest in fashion but this structure was absolute genius. With something close to 600 answers to a survey, some short stories, personal anecdotes, and some interviews between some pretty high profile figures—from lingerie models, actors, writers, artists, people from different continents, from different stratifications of class—this just immaculately cultivates the most interesting interrogation of embodiment I’ve ever consumed.

Jun 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love the premise, but I wish this was better edited.

Some of the interviews and essays stand out as exceptionally strong. I loved Julia Wallace's interviews with Cambodian garment workers about how they choose the clothing that they wear, and their thoughts on the clothing they produce. Emily Gould's piece on a status purse--its significance, her relationship with money, and how they changed over the years--was excellent. I also enjoyed the piece where a smell scientist analyzed the smells of c
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I adore this.

I couldn't wait to get home from work every day so I could pick it up and continue exploring the lives of others through their clothes and views of clothes.

Yes, there were particular individuals whose viewpoints I disagreed with, or other sections that I found to be pointless, but then I had to remind myself that this isn't written to be from a specific viewpoint. This wasn't written with a specific agenda to convince me to agree with a certain viewpoint, instead, it was written to
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads, skimmed
Am I really reading this? I can't believe I'm reading this. I am sort of reading this....
.... Not the sort of book I expected to read. I am truly not interested in fashion, and the woman in this book who claims I must be lying to say that, well she is wrong. But I am interested in how people perceive themselves, and how they think others perceive them, and the dis/connect between those (when we achieve/fail to create an approximation on the outside of how we feel on the inside). I kept moving th
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
I was a good reads first reads winner of this book. I would give this a 2.5 myself. I will admit this is not what i thought it was when I tried out for the giveaway. I thought it was essays and short stories by women and in a sense this is a bit like that. I did not realize this is about clothes and the women who wear them. I am a blue jean and tennis shoe kind of person and not much for fashion. It is hard to know what category to put this book in. I would call it "hodgepodge" myself. it is a v ...more
Melanie Watts
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Unlike fashion magazines that tell you what to wear and how to think this book tell you what real women are wearing and what they are thinking. It is not so much about female clothing as it is a a celebration of femininity, women talking about their younger selves, their mothers, grandmothers and sisters.
There's a story told by the daughter of a women who got married wearing jeans and a checked shirt, later when the daughter was five she got divorced and came out as Lesbian.
Another story from
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: gender, fashion
This book is good in a way that's soooo close to excellent it's painful! It needs to be edited down to about 3/5ths of its size for a start, and then include more truly interesting voices on their clothes, more politicians, politician's wives, business women, working women, pilots, prostitutes, and less fashionable NYC people. Fashionable NYC people already have ample space to dominate the conversation on clothes, I do not care about their $400 sweaters. There was some weird anti-Midwestern sent ...more
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, art-book
Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton will be released on September 4, 2014. This book is a compilation of interviews, conversations, essays, and photographic collections from 642 contributors and their unique relationship with clothes. (Includes interviews with Miranda July, Cindy Sherman, and Lena Dunham) Women in Clothes dives into the complexities of how clothes forms our identities as women - spanning generations, cultures, countries, class, gender, sexuality, ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Buzzed through this one between bus rides and subways and a few early morning coffees while I waited for everything else to open. I love listening to people, I love the little ways we reveal ourselves in inconsequential seeming choices. I had no trouble with the organization/playful lack or organization. Perhaps because deep down I am still that person who would rather stick my hand into every bin of uncooked lentils at a farmer's market then eat a chain-produced-freeze-dried soup. ...more
Hayley Dyer
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books I've ever read. ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it liked it
The word "book" seems insufficient to describe this 500+ page, multi-year, multi-collaborator project. Although now that I think about it, I think it's less a problem of linguistics than of presentation; the book format itself is insufficient to contain it.

Women In Clothes is an consideration of precisely that - women (of varying ages, cultures, body shapes, gender and sexual identities, and income levels) and their relationship with their clothing. The examination takes the form of a collection
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
It took me 6 weeks to get through this book - 500 plus pages of small type. Women in Clothes is a compilation of surveys, interviews, and photos of women and their relationship with clothes. I am not a shopper or follower of fashion, so some of it was clearly beyond me. I took to having my phone handy so I could Google the names to see who was speaking. It was both fascinating and appalling to learn how much thought, time and money some women give to filling their closets. One page shows photos ...more
Michelle Schumaker
Dec 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I would not recommend reading this book from a kindle (or perhaps it's because my kindle is so old and only in black and white), but I did not like the format of the book. I skipped over many of the surveys and there were entire chapters devoted to just photos of various black dresses, scarves, or false eye-lashes. It was quite annoying. I did enjoy the insight on fashion from women of all ages, cultures, classes, and races, but those felt far and few in between all the other fluff in the book. ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
While some parts (ideas, lines) were appealing and even touching, most of it was just self-indulgent without even much wittiness or charm. I am all for style and women and looking at the particular ways women style themselves, but COME ON. This book brought out an almost junior high level of insecurity and self-absorption in many of the women profiled that I found really disheartening. I ultimately felt like a ridiculous person for even picking this thing up and never finished the book.
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Amusing, if a bit repetitive in its tone, stories, and advice ("I often tuck my shirt into my underwear," or "Wear what you can run in," or "Vanilla was the number-one favorite fragrance." Yawn.)

What I liked: photos of writers' moms before these writers were born, and short paragraphs describing what made the photos special; photocopies of writers' rings on their hands and their descriptions of them; some of the interviews/dialogues between moms and daughters or between friends or colleagues.
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fashion
This is a really ambitious book, and I'd have to read more of it to get a better idea of it. I loved the photographs of women's personal clothing collections (for example, one woman's jean jackets) and daughters' reflections on photographs of their mothers. I think you could come back to this book for years and read bits. ...more
LA Smith
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and even at times insightful, this book was an interesting experiment in non-traditional publishing, a multi-faceted exploration of the relationship between women and their clothes. Though I am no clothes horse, and certainly no fashionista, I do have my personal style, and I enjoyed reading what other women had to say about what we wear.
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r/FemaleFashionAd...: Notes as You Go: Women in Clothes 1 24 Jan 01, 2018 03:47PM  

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Sheila Heti is the author of ten books, including the novels Motherhood and How Should a Person Be? Her upcoming novel, Pure Colour, will be published on February 15, 2022.

Her second children’s book, A Garden of Creatures, illustrated by Esme Shapiro, will be published in May 2022.

She was named one of "The New Vanguard" by The New York Times; a list of fifteen writers from around the world who a

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