It’s been almost two years since Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, and Worn Stories by Emily Spivack were published. Both texts set out to explore the significance of clothes and fashion from the perspective of individual wearers, inviting them to share their sartorial histories alongside images of the actual garments. Somewhere between a museum and a participant observation project, these books approach the role of dress in women’s (and a few men who took part)lives from a place that values clothes over fashion, stories over trends and people over consumers.
I am now happy to announce that I have acquired personal copies of both texts. The first was a gratefully received gift from my mother for last year’s birthday and the second was recently found in a local Oxfam shop (thank you to whoever decided they were done with it). What I love about these two books is that they are not to be read front to back but dipped in and out of as and when I decide.
This is extremely joyful when I am in the middle of researching more academic topics and in need of some freefall reading. That is not to say that these books are unacademic – they are clearly not – but their approach has yet to be fully understood or embraced by either the academic or the non-academic community. This is why they make for inspiring reads even when there are other critical tasks at hand.
So, while I am working on a current deadline, I invite you to revisit these books and at the same time I leave you with an article by journalists from The Guardian remembering what they used to wear as students. While the actual garment is not laid out like a collector’s object, the accompanying photographs remind me how much dress and fashion relate to memory and identity, something both Women in Clothes and Worn Stories begin to explore and make more tangible.
In April I return with some exhibition reviews and the latest round up of what to see in and around the UK.
Top image: http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/mar/14/how-i-dressed-as-a-student-our-writers-on-what-they-once-wore#img-1