Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thinking about books and fashion, art and history

My retirement from teaching has led to an expansion of interests I have held for years but have had little time to pursue. Much of my time now is spent thinking about books and authors, clothing and fashion, sewing techniques, craft and art. A picture of my brain activity would no doubt be lit up like Times Square.

Recently I came across mention of this book while reading one of the 50 fashion blogs I frequent:
“The Thoughtful Dresser” by Linda Grant is pure pleasure to read. It is a celebration of clothing, of adornment, and a thoughtful (ha, hence the title) examination of how we influence clothing choices, and how those choices reflect our current culture. It is more than a fashion history, though it is indeed chock full of history-of the big fashion houses of Europe, of WWII, of the rise of the department stores and the loss of the small boutiques. The book brings a human face, and sometimes that face is of an immigrant, to the depiction of fashion. Grant writes with sharp analysis but also great tenderness.
Before you say “Fashion is trivial and so this book may be also” read what Grant has to say to those who would criticize an interest in clothing as trivial:
"We fall victim to a cake because it is delicious. Interestingly the angry rages against unnecessary clothes are seldom replicated in moral campaigns against flambéed cherries or steak au poivre. No one pickets restaurants or rails against the conspicuous waste of unnecessary calories in a three-course meal.... It is pointless fashion, not pointless cuisine, that gets the moralist's goat, and you would have to be pretty dim not to sniff the stench of misogyny that surrounds their outrage." (p. 99)
Grant won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Vogue. Her novel, “The Clothes on Their Backs” was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

Other works:
“Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution” 1993
“The Cast Iron Shore” 1996 awarded the David Higham First Novel Award
“Remind Me Who I am Again” 1998
“When I Lived in Modern Times” 2000 awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction
“Still Here” 2002
“The People On The Street: A Writer's View of Israel” 2006 won the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage

Recommended highly!


  1. OMGosh! I just love the Grant's quote you cited!! I hope you and she don't mind if I should quote her the next time DH criticizes my buying more patterns or fabric!!! :)

  2. Quote away Connie :-) She makes a strong case, doesn't she? Some would have us wear the equivalent of a uniform-which would suck the art right out of my soul.


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