Women In Clothes by Sheila HetiWomen In Clothes by Sheila Heti

Women In Clothes

bySheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Leanne Shapton

Paperback | September 4, 2014

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THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Women in Clothes
is a book unlike any other. It is essentially a conversation among hundreds of women of all nationalities—famous, anonymous, religious, secular, married, single, young, old—on the subject of clothing, and how the garments we put on every day define and shape our lives.

It began with a survey. The editors composed a list of more than fifty questions designed to prompt women to think more deeply about their personal style. Writers, activists, and artists including Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon, Kalpona Akter, Sarah Nicole Prickett, Tavi Gevinson, Miranda July, Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham, and Molly Ringwald answered these questions with photographs, interviews, personal testimonies, and illustrations.

Even our most basic clothing choices can give us confidence, show the connection between our appearance and our habits of mind, express our values and our politics, bond us with our friends, or function as armor or disguise. They are the tools we use to reinvent ourselves and to transform how others see us. Women in Clothes embraces the complexity of women’s style decisions, revealing the sometimes funny, sometimes strange, always thoughtful impulses that influence our daily ritual of getting dressed.
Sheila Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including Motherhood, How Should a Person Be? which was a New York Times Notable Book and was named a best book of the year by The New Yorker. She is co-editor of the New York Times bestseller Women in Clothes, and is t...
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Title:Women In ClothesFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:528 pages, 8.86 X 6.61 X 1.33 inShipping dimensions:528 pages, 8.86 X 6.61 X 1.33 inPublished:September 4, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399166564

ISBN - 13:9780399166563

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

INTRODUCTIONQUESTIONS The book is based on a survey we invited women worldwide to complete. The survey consisted of an ever-evolving list of questions. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had with someone on the subject of fashion or style? • With whom do you talk about clothes? • Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you? • Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion? • Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain. • Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? If you’re not so sure about your clothing choices, would you say you’re better in other areas, or the same? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it (or where the lack comes from, if you don’t have it), and why? • Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style have been passed down to you or not? • What is your cultural background, and how has that influenced how you dress? • Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing, or style? What lessons do you remember? Did they tell you things directly, or did you just pick things up? • What sorts of things do you do, clothing- or makeup- or hair-wise, to feel sexy or alluring? • What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves? • Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you? • Do you care about lingerie? • Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice? What sort do you tend to admire? If not admiration, what is the feeling that a compelling woman on the street gives you? • If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say? • What is really beautiful, for you, in general? • What do you consider very ugly? • Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance? • When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, what is this “other person” like? What does she like, dislike, what sorts of judgments does she have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or knew once? • What’s your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering? • What are you trying to achieve when you dress? • What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up? • If you had to wear a “uniform,” what would it look like? • What would you say is “you,” and what would you say is “not you”? • Do you remember a time in your life when you dressed quite differently from how you do now? Can you describe it and what it was all about for you? • What sorts of things do you do, clothing-, makeup-, or hair-wise, to feel professional? • How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace? • How do institutions affect the way you dress? • Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity? • Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms? • Is it comforting or constraining to have a uniform? • Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or makeup or hair? What was it? Why did it happen then, do you think? • Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something? • What are some dressing rules that you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but that you follow? • Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women? • What is an archetypal outfit for you, one that you could have happily worn at any point in your life? What do you like about it? • Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past? • If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be? • Do you consider yourself photogenic? • When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think? • Send a photograph of your mother from the time before she had children, and tell us what you see. • Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from? • Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes? • What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try to achieve? • Have you stolen, borrowed, or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family? • Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about? • Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you? • If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body was a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear? • When do you feel at your most attractive? • Is there anyone you are trying to attract or repel when you dress? • Do you like to smell a certain way? • What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it? • What’s the situation with your hair? • Please describe your body. • Please describe your mind. • Please describe your emotions. • What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable? • How does makeup fit into all this for you? • What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment? • Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested? • What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc.? • Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing- and jewelry-wise? • What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own? • Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it? • Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in, and if so, why? • Looking back at your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy? • Is there an item of clothing that you once owned but no longer own and still think about or wish you had? What was it and what happened to it and why do you want it back? • If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep? • If you were building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time? • What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it? • Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life? • What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for? • Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing? • Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened? • Do you address anything political in the way you dress? • Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item, and what happened? • Did you ever buy an item of clothing or jewelry certain that it would be meaningful to you, but it wasn’t at all? What was it, and what happened? • How and when do you shop for clothes? • Do you have any shopping rules you follow? • How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself? • How does money fit into all this? • Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing? • Is there an article of clothing, some makeup, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day? • Can you recall some 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 remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about? • Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level? • In what way is this stuff important, if at all?COLLECTION CLAUDIA DEY’s fedoras ON DRESSINGGOOD MORNINGELIF BATUMANLast summer, when I was living in Istanbul, Sheila Heti asked me to compliment a series of women on their clothes and record our subsequent conversations. The women were supposed to be strangers, and I was supposed to meet them in elevators. There were many, many reasons why I never did end up asking strange women about their clothes in elevators in Istanbul. The only place where I used the elevator was at the gym. I felt like the women at my gym already weren’t that crazy about me, and to be honest, their clothes were nothing special. I did once compliment the Pilates instructor, a former ballerina, whose insistence on relaxing and natural breathing seemed somehow fraught with anxiety, on her amazing earrings: one of the tiny silver studs was connected, by a long, fine chain, to an equally fine necklace. I didn’t have a tape recorder, but luckily she just smiled politely. She was folding “resistance bands.”Later that week, I had lunch with the writer Elif Şafak. We had first met some months earlier, when she accidentally walked into me at a huge dinner in London. She had been walking backward, for some reason. This was our second meeting. She was wearing marvelous clothes, about which I remember only that each article had a different texture, everything looked expensive, and all of it was black, though it was July. When I told her how wonderful she looked, she gave me a look full of compassion and, reaching across the table, wordlessly squeezed my hands.All summer, antigovernment protests raged in Istanbul, and in cities all over the country. My apartment was often full of tear gas, and also full of journalists and protesters and, on one occasion, a protester’s small, demanding dog. One journalist had come from Bulgaria; most mornings starting at seven, he was reporting to Bulgarian national radio, speaking very loudly, since it wasn’t a good line. Every day, one or the other of my parents called, urging me to come home to the U.S. early. Nobody was sleeping, or getting any work done. Feeling overwhelmed, I packed a bag and took a commuter ferry to Heybeliada, an island in the Sea of Marmara. Though Heybeliada is in the Istanbul municipality, stepping off the boat was like landing on a different planet. There were no police vehicles, no police, no protesters, no gas masks, no gas, no graffiti. It was as if the past weeks had never happened.“Where are all the police?” I asked when I reached the pension where I had booked a room.“We have four police on the island,” the owner replied. “They mostly concern themselves with picnickers.”When I stepped outside the next morning, a beautiful orange cat rubbed up against my leg. The sun seemed to pour over your whole body in a way that was full of love. Walking downhill toward the sea, past the ruined white Ottoman houses that resembled, with their gingerbread trim, heaps of old lace, I came upon a woman sitting on the curb. In her forties, deeply tanned, she wore a headscarf, and a severe expression. As I approached, I felt that she was actually glowering at me.“Good morning,” I said cheerfully, hoping to defuse the atmosphere, even as I wondered whether the woman was religious, and how the people who lived here felt about women traveling alone.The woman’s face was suddenly, utterly transformed, by what I realized was a smile. “Good morning,” she said, beaming. “I was just admiring your skirt. That’s why I was looking at you like that.”SURVEYWOMEN LOOKING AT WOMEN “Sometimes I’ll see a woman dressed in a way that makes me think we must be similar, like in another world we’d be friends.” —SASHA ARCHIBALD ANN IRELAND Often, I’ll spot a woman crossing the road who is wearing just the narrow gray-black pants I want. Or sneakers that are just one color with no ugly stripes. Maybe I could get away with that Indian dress! Those Jesus sandals are just the ticket—I bet they’re comfortable, too. Then I crave it, a sort of low-level fever that won’t lift until I’ve located the desired item and seen whether it works for me, too.VANESSA BERRY A woman selling vegetables at a market stall once complimented me on my wool shirt. Every time I looked back she was looking at me. I took it as a good sign that I should wear this shirt when I want to impress someone.ALESIA PULLINS I like complimenting other black women—women of color in general—because I feel like a lot of times the only people giving us compliments are other women of color. It’s not a conscious thing where I’m like, “I’m going to go in here and find the two black girls and load them down with compliments.” It’s just something I tend to do because I realize, “Look, I see what you’re doing over there, I see what you’re working with, and I like it.”ANA KINSELLA When I was about nineteen, my friend and I were sitting outside the lecture theatre, smoking cigarettes and commenting on every girl who walked by and what she was wearing. We thought we were very cool and trendy and edgy. In retrospect we were idiots and I in particular looked like a fashion-crazed fool. But after an hour or so we figured out that the girls we considered the best-dressed were not the girls who wore the clothes we may have coveted most, but the ones who had a consistent style, a steady palette, and knew the silhouettes that worked best for them. I realized then that style is about knowing what you like and why you like it, more than anything else.GRACE DENTON In university, there was a girl who lived on my floor. She once came to my room and asked if her outfit looked okay. In the natural way young girls have with people they don’t really know yet, I said, “Yeah, you look great!” She was probably wearing something middle-of-the-road and vaguely hippy. Then I asked, “How about me?” as a kind of social exchange. She said, “Hmmm, yeah, I don’t know. You kind of look like you’re trying to look wacky.” This was a horrific revelation. Who the fuck . . . ! Why did she . . . ! I was wearing a polka-dot spaghetti-strap dress I loved, with a T-shirt underneath. It later became apparent that she had multiple social strangenesses, but the comment stuck. I still occasionally look at myself with her eyes and think, “Okay, trying too hard, take it back a step.” This makes me sad.JILL MARGO In my early twenties, there were a bunch of girls who swapped clothes or, rather, borrowed clothes from our most alpha female, who was very communally minded. They were considered lucky clothes—the ones that got us laid. Recently, I saw a photo from back then of my friend in one of the outfits. There is no way those things looked as good on any of us as they looked on her. What were we thinking?OLLA NAJAH AL-SHALCHI In high school, I started wearing a hijab, and was still trying to find a way of dressing like my peers, while also respecting my religion. So I would wear black pants, a beige shirt, a vest that was black and beige, and a beige hijab. But I love color, and this outfit was boring and lacked color. However, one day my friends told me that my outfit looked “sophisticated.” This got me thinking about how I didn’t really need to care about dressing like my peers. Dressing “sophisticated” made me feel better about the clothes I was wearing.KELLEY HOFFMAN It’s not just my clothing that changed my first year working at Vogue. I also picked up cues on how to speak and act. Whenever my editor would ask me to do something, I’d say casually, “No problem!” But when I heard another intern, who was much more sophisticated than I was, say, “Of course,” to this same editor, I thought it sounded much more refined, so I started saying “Of course,” too.JOSS LAKE My ex-girlfriend said, “You don’t have style, you have styles.” I’d always felt like I was failing to construct a coherent style—so it became a sort of Whitmanian mantra, not only for fashion, but for my personhood: “I contain multitudes. I contain multitudes.”STELLA BUGBEE Sometimes when I see a woman with particular charm or confidence or just interesting personal habits, I actually want to be her. And it’s not one kind of woman. Wildly different people inspire that kind of interest and awe. I never think that way about men, though.AREV DINKJIAN For the past few summers, I worked at an Armenian Youth Federation camp. My outfits consisted of gym shorts, a dirty T-shirt, old tennis shoes, a messy bun, and a face with no makeup. It’s less than glamorous, yet I leave each year with more confidence than ever. I’m surrounded by girls who look up to me, who mimic my every move, who want to look and be just like me. They tell me every day that I’m beautiful and ask me to do their hair and pick out their dresses for the dances. I feel at my best because they look up to me in my most natural state. And I find them just as beautiful.LILI OWEN ROWLANDS I live with four girls and our wardrobes are an extension of each other. However, I find there’s a competitiveness in it. I love to borrow but hate to lend. Sometimes I make up excuses about wanting to wear items of my own wardrobe so others can’t wear them. I never understand where this sheer meanness comes from, but it happens and I hate it. I fear our slow homogenization. I’ve started wearing lots of yellow because I have told myself it suits only my colouring. I like to make a point of this sporadically at dinner: “Yellow only really works with a dark fringe.”KRISTI GOLDADE Last August, I was at an art fair and there was this Russian woman. She looked so pretty and dainty, her hair was cut in this shiny black bob, and she had a scarf around her neck. She was with her husband and kid. More than her look, I wanted her essence—it was so artistic and effortless. So in November, I cut my hair into a bob and now I try to do the seamless, sophisticated thing. I’m into it as a form.UMM ADAM When I was thirteen, I dressed like all my friends in a simple shalwar kameez with a dupatta around my neck. There were a few girls in my school who wore the hijab, but I thought that was a little too extreme. I did not look down on them or think they were old-fashioned. I respected their style, but felt that style was not for me. One day, my mom was showing me pictures from her trip to the U.S. and I was a little surprised to see that there were Muslim girls there who wore hijab. My mom said, “I wish you could cover like them.” That’s when I put my dupatta on my head and decided to wear hijab.SZILVIA MOLNAR I love noticing women who have a panoramic view of their environment when they’re walking down the street. Women who are engaged in the moment and are interested in looking at who or what is around them.HEATHER MALLICK When I was a child, we were on the subway in Montreal and I saw a beautiful black-haired young woman with perfect skin. She was in a red skirt with polka dots and was biting into a pistachio ice cream with her perfect large white teeth. I stared in awe and thought, “One day I will move to the city and live in my own apartment and dress like her.” Who was that woman? I think about her often.AMANDA M. At school, a Muslim girl spoke about why she chose the burka. She said, “You American girls have it rough. You constantly have to be thinking about what looks good on you, how to look hot, how to hide flaws. You’re slaves to fashion. I’m never self-conscious about how sexy I look.” When I see women in full coverings now, I wonder, “Are they freer than I am?”HELEN DeWITT Once in Paris a woman pulled up to the curb in a red Ferrari to exclaim over a pair of black stretch trousers with a white faux-Chinese-character pattern which I had bought for ten quid in the Roman Road.DIANA BECKER I was in line at the Guggenheim with my favorite cousin, who is a stylist. There was a woman in front of us and we couldn’t understand her. She had a beautiful sixty-something face but she felt like a girl. Her outfit was perfect, her body svelte, not yoga-tight or anything extreme. We were obsessed with her and labeled her one of the “young-old.” We still hunt for them and wonder if weather or cultures inspire more of them. What’s their secret? Do they have good taste, or is it their mental state, diet, exercise? And why are they mostly not American?COLLECTION LYDIA BURKHALTER’s gray sweatshirts SURVEYLeopoldine CoreWhat do you admire about how other women present themselves?I admire well-groomed women whose clothes are clean and fit them perfectly. Conversely, I admire women who rock a more feral look. I can’t decide which of these women I’d like to be. Clean or dirty? I pinball between the two.When do you feel at your most attractive?I feel attractive when I don’t have any zits and when I’m having a good hair day. Hair and skin are the top priorities for me. But I feel spectacular when I’m wearing a dress because I like the air on my legs and I can wear my boots with the little heel. If I wear a dress and have exposed legs, I like a big sweater on top, kind of hanging off me, like a Kurt Cobain sweater. I can also feel very attractive in jeans and sneakers and an old stained hoodie with no makeup. That feels very youthful, and I’m turned on by the idea of someone being drawn to the face I actually have, the clothes I actually own. If someone likes me all raggedy, I feel powerful, like I don’t need much, and that’s hot. Okay, I’m now realizing when I feel the most attractive. It’s when I’m wearing someone else’s well-chosen and wonderfully lived-in clothes. Like when I borrow a friend’s shirt or pants or shoes. I look in the mirror while wearing these clothes and think, “I would never have known to buy this.” And then I walk out into the world wearing whatever it is with a certain feeling—a sexy feeling.Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple?What I have a lot of is pajamas. Nightgowns are important to me, too, because I spend more time inside than out. Being in bed feels the most natural to me, I even write in bed. I grew up in a very cluttered apartment; my mother was a hoarder. The only uncluttered place was my bed, so I learned to do everything there. I have many flannel pajama bottoms and many large sleep shirts, which are just oversized T-shirts that are soft from being washed so many times. I also call these shirts “eating shirts” because it doesn’t matter if you spill, they are already so stained. I think I keep collecting these things because I like being naked but not totally naked. I like for there to be a loose wall between me and the world. I can’t wea

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Women in Clothes“Poems, interviews, pieces that read like diary or journal entries—all these responses help the editors fulfill their aims: to liberate readers from the idea that women have to fit a certain image or ideal, to show the connection between dress and ‘habits of mind,’ and to offer readers ‘a new way of interpreting their outsides.’ ‘What are my values?’ one woman asks. ‘What do I want to express?’ Those questions inform the multitude of eclectic responses gathered in this delightfully idiosyncratic book.”—Kirkus Reviews “Thoughtfully crafted and visually entertaining, this collection, edited by Heti, Julavits, and Shapton, uses personal reflections from 642 contributors to examine women’s relationship with clothes in a deceptively lighthearted and irreverent tone....it also inspires meaningful questions…the prose is spliced with striking visuals...[a] provocative time capsule of contemporary womanhood.”—Publishers Weekly “[A] delirious assortment of conversations, essays, journal entries, and photographs…This big, busy book feels like a thrift store brimming with jumbles of clothes and accessories and alive with women’s voices. Their comments and stories are canny, funny, incisive, twee, surprising, and caring, as thoughts and anecdotes about clothes touch on everything from gender to beauty, sex, mother-daughter relationships, aspirations, money, human rights, health, work, creativity, and violence. A uniquely kaleidoscopic and spirited approach to an irresistible subject of universal resonance.”—Booklist “This is the wisdom of the crowd, and while it''s not authoritative or prescriptive, it''s reassuring and fun.”—Associated Press “This charming patchwork expands the scope of fashion writing by looking not at forerunners of style but at how those outside the industry think about what they wear....The range of women involved [is] dazzling...a welcome addition to writing that often focuses on a single trend for all.”—Madeleine Schwartz, The Boston Globe “[A] thoughtful, droll, and often moving tome…Women in Clothes is the pulchritudinous addendum to Mr. Twain’s famous quote—clothes make the woman.”—Sloane Crosley, Interview  “[A] winningly zine-like compendium.”—Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com “Women in Clothes dares to dive into the realm of heels and chiffon to suss out the deeper underpinnings of what we wear.”—Bustle.com