This is one of those books I kept meaning to read but stuff just kept getting in the way. Don’t get me wrong; at 210 pages, this isn’t a long book. But it is a packed book. This is a book about clothes but, in an important way, that is only part of its theme. The bigger theme is about us. Clothes, Linda Grant argues, are about how we present ourselves to the world and clothes are also and at the same time about pleasure. This, as Linda Grant points out, a relatively new phenomenon. Or, as she puts it, “Until the thirties, the working class were used to having only two sets of clothing, one for the weekday, worn literally day in and day out (including underwear), and Sunday best. … Even the middle classes had fewer suits and dresses than we do today.” But that changed. And part of that change was driven by immigrants. Immigrants (like Linda Grant’s grandparents) did not belong to a caste but instinctively saw that clothes could be the ticket to a better life. Or, as Linda Grant remembers her Grandfather teaching, “The only thing worse than being skint is looking as if you’re skint.”
So clothes are clearly part of how we present ourselves to the world. But they are also pleasure. There is true pleasure in finding that perfect clothing. “Ultimately you will find a chocolate brown coat. And in the years to come, photographed on a cold day in early February beneath the Eiffel Tower…you will say ‘I remember that coat. It took me a week to find it but it was perfect. I’ll never have another as nice.’” That’s only a part of the joy of shopping and wearing the right clothes.
Conversely, genuinely not caring about what you wear is a sign pf genuine trauma. Or—Linda Grant puts it better: “The only person I have ever come across who genuinely appeared to have no interest at all in how she appeared to others was a woman whose jacket hung loose off her shoulders as a result of weeks of not eating properly or sleeping. Her son had been killed.”
So clothes are many things at the same time and this little book describes at least some of them. And it is beautifully and thoughtfully written to boot. I highly recommend it.
Product Name: The Thoughtful Dresser
Product Description: The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter
Clothes are many things at the same time and this little book describes at least some of them. And it is beautifully and thoughtfully written to boot. I highly recommend it.