What I’m Reading Now

clothes

A Man From Ohio once again offers an education. Analyzing the Toni Morrison interviews and various conflicts of interest is keeping my brain sharp. In the meantime, I’m dipping in and out of Women in Clothes. Again, I’m not sure the source of information on this 500-plus page book, written by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, “& 639 Others.”

Though it appears in printed form, Women in Clothes reads more like a Wiki or a blog with random posts, photos, and drawings. The designers made artful use of white space, but the text feels cramped in places. The typeface, especially the plethora of italics, makes for tough going.

Some of it is fascinating. “Ring Cycle” features fourteen pages of photocopied hands (one naked) with stories of rings. The “Collections” include clogs, eye lashes – some of them look like dead millipedes – Catholic jewelry, and best of all safety pins and bobby pins. Never did get how chewing gum becomes an item of apparel. The photos of early- and mid-twentienth century women are more than worth the price of admission, which is an entirely reasonable $30 considering the size of the volume and the number of photos, some on glossy pages.

The content offers some disturbing pieces. Ana Bunčić’s “Wear Areas” reproduces critiques that four men made of her body. “Man 2 wished I wore a deep neckline so he could show my breasts off.” Man 1 kept saying that I should take better care of my nails.” The twenty-four images in Leanne Shapton’s project “Stains” should be combined into a single painting. The double bicycle stains tell me she needs to invest in some Dawn dish soap. The multiple oil stains will disappear with judicious application of baby powder. Mascara on pillowcase? Wash your face before you lie down. But who wants to mess with art?

The best section gives men’s garments almost equal time. Leslie Vosshall and Julavits hired a “smell scientist” to sniff coats hanging in a fancy restaurant’s coat check. The results were fantastic and perceptive: “secret smoker,” “man who is cross-dressing,” “powdery violet scent,” “refined and subtle,” “sweaty,” “cheap airport,” “robot” because of no discernible scent.

Overall impression: these women have way too many clothes and even more time on their hands. Who needs thirteen navy blue blazers? Rent the Runway could render Women in Clothes obsolete or at least send the work to Instagram.

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