Off the Page: Women in Clothes
For the woman on your Christmas list who gets dressed every morning, the new book Women in Clothes makes a fun, quirky gift.
Sure, that applies to lots of women. The book’s premise is that we all—not just the savvy dressers or the bargain dressers—deal with basic and deep issues in choosing what to wear on any given day. Memories, desires and reflections inform the style that each of us cultivates, consciously or not, in stages and over a lifetime. As co-author Heidi Julavits says, “I am always checking out women because I love stories, and women in clothes tell stories.” Does it limit the field to say this book will be appreciated by ladies on your gift list who get dressed every day and love storytelling? Probably not.
Sheila Heti, Julavits and Leanne Shapton aren’t style mavens, and they don’t dish out guidance. They’re writers who aimed to discover how ordinary women everywhere think about clothes and related matters: hair, makeup, what’s “you” or “not you,” what’s ugly, shopping preferences, identity, conformity, confidence … you name it. They collaborated on a huge survey sent to hundreds of people, asking questions about personal appearance. And they creatively present the results in this voluminous compilation of stories and photographs, short essays and interviews.
You can pick this book up, open it anywhere and start reading. Therein lies one of its charms. It functions quite like a coffee table book, but with myriad voices and fewer pictures. More important, Women in Clothes turns a reader inward to consider her own evolving style … and why she bought that pricey pink Marc Jacobs purse last week.
Recipients may gain from the book what the authors themselves did in making it: a sense of “liberation.” Heti says, “It makes it a bit more pleasurable knowing that everything you’re feeling you share with other women. It makes the act of getting dressed seem more like a communal thing.”