Book Review: The Fashionable Mind: Reflections on Fashion, 1970-1982

At 22 years old, fresh out of university, Ms. Kennedy Fraser left England and moved to New York City for a job that no longer exists today: “Feminine Fashions” columnist at The New Yorker. She wrote about the panoply of costumes walking down Fifth Avenue, couture collections, and the emergence of “electronic” shopping, assuming the role of the seasoned analytical observer – and convincingly too, given her safe and acknowledged lack of experience. In the 33 essays collected here, Fraser, who is critical of the fashion establishment, vigorously examines the trends and temperament of her time, using lofty rhetorical devices to analyze who is wearing what and why. Though it may sound wildly cerebral, Fraser executes her pieces with more charm and wit than the majority of contemporary fashion critics. For example, discussing the fitness craze she writes, “[women] may embark on exercises done on the floor at home, starting the day with a dismal view of the cobwebs festooned beneath the furniture.” Fraser’s Fashionable Mind is indeed a nimble one, navigating an era of great change in consumer fashion as the industry shifted away from authoritative dressing toward the individualist culture we know today.

by Kennedy Fraser – Knopf
reviewed by Sara Forsyth (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 10)

photography by Jessica da Silva

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