The Sociology Of Style

Rachel Signer praises the new book Women In Clothes:

It is a striking endeavor in that it is … verifiably “crowd-sourced” and contains no input from anyone who could be considered a style icon, although a former fashion model and a prominent fashion critic are amongst those who contributed survey responses. The book is, in this sense, a truly contemporary item, representing an age brought along through the Internet’s dominance, in which all opinions are valid, and sharing private thoughts and practices is acceptable.

Jenna Sauers also recommends the collection:

Most affecting, for me, were the roundups of answers to single survey questions, both for the specificity of the unique responses and for their shared engagement. I liked learning that Eileen Myles resents the way men can let themselves go, because she wants the same “freedom to be a pig” that men have, and that Audrey Gelman and I both tuck our blouses into our tights. Clothes are vehicles for memory, objects of economic trade, and products of history. The anthology succeeds as an investigation into this often seen, but rarely looked at, element of our material culture.

Elisabeth Donnelly talked to the authors about what they learned from their research:

What have you learned about the ethics of clothes in the Western world?

[Sheila Heti]: We interviewed the Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland about this — and the conclusion she came to (she is a woman who doesn’t buy herself clothes) is that there’s really no good solution. You can say it’s bad to shop at places like H&M because the (mostly women) who work in the factories that make these are labouring under terrible conditions, yet the minimum wage in America is so low that many people cannot afford clothes except those that are made in these factories.

So it’s hard propose a likely ethics of clothes in America when wages are so low. I would like our book to help a little bit, simply by saying: maybe you don’t need to buy and consume as much. Maybe a new shirt is not the solution. Shop more carefully and make what you have last.