August 2, 2013

How do you wear yours? The new crowd-sourced book ‘Women in Clothes’ wants to know


Sheila Heti wants to know how you get dressed

A group of writers, including Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton, are to edit a book entitled Women in Clothes, which will ‘explore the multiplicity of motives that inform how women present themselves, and what style means.’  While there are plenty of style books out there, from DIY manuals to The Sartorialist’s compendiums of street style, this book will offer something quite different.

Its authors are asking women (and men) to participate in the book by completing a detailed survey about getting dressed, wearing clothes and their self-image, and these answers will form much of the book’s content. As the authors explain on the book’s website, they will use: interviews, conversations, surveys, diagrams and drawings, and … [include] original contributions from a wide range of people, including established artists and writers like Miranda July, Zadie Smith, Molly Ringwald, Eileen Myles, Mona Kowalska, Roxane Gay and Sarah Nicole Prickett

Reading the survey’s questions, it is clear that this book will not be simply about clothes, nor are the editors looking for Sex and the City style sassy quips about the power of the Little Black Dress. Here are a few examples:

Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

Can you recall any times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?

Do you think you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances and chores? What is it?

These intimate questions use the idea of dressing to explore women’s lives today: their identity, self-perceptions, friendships, and feelings of confidence and insecurity. While women’s appearances are perpetually obsessed-over, dissected and enhanced in the mainstream media, a book called Women in Clothes first appears brave, and then wise.

The project’s use of crowd-sourcing means that any woman around the world with an internet connection and basic English, can contribute, in her own words, to a record of how she really feels about the importance of getting dressed, and how she interacts with the components that make up her individual style.

It will be interesting to see where this experiment takes its editors, and participants, but it is clear already that this book will be a celebration of women’s ideas and voices, as well as what they’re wearing.



Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.