I’m fashion writer at a popular women’s website by day, a role that generally irks me when I consider the superficiality of it all. I don’t even think of myself as a “fashion person” — I may even take offense if someone were to label me as such. Still though, I’m keenly in tune to the clothing I wear and how I choose to showcase myself to the world, meaning getting dressed in the morning takes much longer than it should. After all, the way you dress is a quick lens into the kind of person you are, right?
In the new doozy of a book Women in Clothes, authors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton explore these deliberate decisions we make every day when getting dressed. They opened up the discussion to 639 contributors and compiled survey responses, photographs, essays, and conversations into an epic 515-pager of a book. (Full disclosure, I happen to be a contributor as well.) Apparently, women have a whole lot to say about the way they look.
There’s so much to explore within the hundreds of pages in Women in Clothes that there’s no one right place to start; you can literally crack it open to any page and dive in. In one section, you can read the meta, early G-chat correspondences between the author trio, just as they were hatching the idea for this book. Later on, you are introduced to the extensive list of survey questions that Heti, Julavits, and Shapton invited celebrities, designers, everyday folks — even me, LOL — to answer: Do you think you have taste or style? What is your cultural background, and how has that influenced how you dress? What do you consider very ugly? Peppered throughout the book, all sorts of influential women like Miranda July and Lena Dunham share essays and discuss in-depth the deep connection they have to certain articles of clothing in their daily wear, like that one “lucky dress” they have, the fake eyelashes they apply every morning, or deciding which one of their 20 nearly-identical navy blazers they should wear that day. One of my favorite sections of the book features images contributors submitted of their mothers during their still-maiden stages, with captions speaking to what they saw in their moms before time turned them into actual moms.
It’s funny, though I am not quick to share the fashion pieces I write for work — “check out this designer’s unreasonably expensive fall collection” or “this is an outfit you should wear because I collaged this outfit for you, person I don’t know” — I am psyched to be included in a book that most women will invariably have some kind of attachment to, just for being a modern gal who puts effort into her appearance. The topic of style can get rather emotional, in fact. It’s a nice feeling, to be able to take the topic of clothing and have it be relatable to women everywhere. God knows that all 639 of us in the book share that very sentiment.