You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Textiles

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This week’s Reading column looks at the material aspects of fashion: the production and consumption of textiles themselves. Textiles are of course used not only for the production of clothing but also for decoration and and functionality in our home environments. These four recently published articles, though, focus mainly on how producers and consumers relate to textiles as they are used for fashion and accessories. From an exploration of the Dorze weavers in Ethiopia and textile production in 14th century Greenland to contemporary uses for recycled textiles and the meaning of materiality in clothing, these articles examine how we make and use textiles for our clothing. We hope you enjoy!

1.  Ekström, K. M., & Salomonson, N. (2014). Reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles–A network approach. Journal of Macromarketing, 34(3), 383-399. 

The accelerated pace of consumption in the Western world has led to an increase in clothing and textiles disposed of in the garbage rather than being reused or recycled. The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of how clothing and textile consumption can become more sustainable by demonstrating how members of a network view and deal with this problem. The study is based on meetings over one and a half years and on a survey. Different views on the problem as well as various solutions on how to increase reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles are presented, including means and challenges. A macromarketing perspective, involving different actors in society, is necessary in order to make consumption more sustainable and for finding long-term solutions. The authors argue that understanding symbolic consumption and the fashion system can contribute to the macromarketing study of societal development from a sustainable perspective. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Klepp, I. G., & Bjerck, M. (2014). A methodological approach to the materiality of clothing: Wardrobe studiesInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(4), 373-386. 

The material is not just ‘a carrier’ of different types of symbols, but an active element in the practices. Bringing this to the fore requires new research methods. This article discusses a methodological approach, we call it a wardrobe study, which allows for the analysis of the way in which clothes relate to each other on the whole or within parts of the wardrobe. More specifically, we discuss how this method can contribute to increasing the materiality of clothes studies. The theoretical point of departure for this approach is a practice theory in which the material enters as an integral part. First, the article briefly discusses developments within the study of dress and fashion. Second, the methods combined and developed in wardrobe studies are discussed. The emphasis here is primarily not only on the weaknesses of the individual methods in practice-oriented dress studies, but also on how they jointly can contribute to the wardrobe study. — Full Article Abstract

3.  Mathiszig, L. (2014). Dialog: The Dorze weavers of EthiopiaTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 12(2), 180-187. 

Ethiopia is a country with an ancient history and a rich tradition of crafts, still to be discovered by mainstream tourism. While traveling here, the author was impressed by the beautiful artisan work and the truly original craftsmanship she found, untouched by mass markets and fashion trends. These ranged from the unique leather clad baskets of the north and beautiful silver jewelry of Tigray to the highly skilled basketwork of the women of Harar and the extraordinary skills of the South Omo Valley tribespeople. However, it is the weaving tradition, which particularly interested her. Whether in the capital, Addis Ababa, or walking in the remote Simien mountains, simple textiles made with the most basic equipment are worn and used everywhere; unlike in many other parts of Africa, traditional handwoven fabrics have remained a part of everyday life. It is the Dorze people who are renowned throughout Ethiopia for their weaving tradition and skills, and the author went back to find out more about them, their history and craft, traveling to their homeland in the southern highlands of Ethiopia. — Paraphrased Article Abstract 

4. Smith, M. H. (2014). Dress, cloth, and the farmer’s wife: Textiles from Ø 172 Tatsipataa, Greenland, with comparative data from IcelandJournal of the North Atlantic, 6(6), 64-81.

Midden excavations at Ø172 (Tatsipataa), on the eastern shore of the Igaliku fjord in southwestern Greenland, produced a significant textile collection consisting of 98 fragments. This collection is important as it stems from a well-contextualized and well-stratified sequence, allowing significant insights into the evolution and nature of cloth production in Greenland. Analysis of this collection showed that while the earliest fragments mirror Icelandic counterparts of comparable ages, the Ø172 collection changes considerably by the 14th century. From this point onward, Greenlandic women wove a weft-dominant cloth unique to Greenland. This cloth type has previously been noted in other, later, Greenlandic collections, but the Tatsipataa collection provides new evidence for the date of its first production. The sudden appearance of this distinctive weft-dominant Greenlandic homespun in the mid-14th century suggests that its production was a domestic adaptation to the initial climatic fluctuations of the Little Ice Age. Overall, the Tatsipataa collection suggests that Greenlandic textile production did not follow the evolutionary trajectory of Icelandic textiles, which became a form of currency from the early to the later Middle Ages. Instead, Greenlandic textiles appear to have been consistently produced for household consumption, without the intense standardization for trade observed in medieval Icelandic collections. — Full Article Abstract 


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