Like Katherine Joslin did with Edith Wharton, Daneen Wardrop ties fashion and academia together in Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing. The Dickinson that is often studied – the one portrayed within her poetry – shows her intellect and her exceptional handle on language. By analyzing often-dismissed aspects of the famous poet like her approach to clothing, Wardrop presents a more down to earth perspective on Dickinson, one that sees her not just as a talented writer but also in many ways a conventional woman living in an antebellum era.
There exist very few images of Dickinson, the best-known being a daguerreotype of her wearing a plain collared dress. Wardrop uses this representation as a starting-off point in answering the very pressing question: was Emily Dickinson fashionable? She then goes on to interpret other roles played by clothing in Dickinson’s life by studying her poetry, letters, general historical context and one famous white dress. Here her research often mirrors itself: Wardrop uses fashion as a tool to further interpret Dickinson’s life and work, then studies Dickinson’s life and work to understand the significance of fashion in this era. An impressive archive of mid-nineteenth century North Eastern fashion, including the labour practices behind textile production, is thus interwoven with biographical facts about Dickinson.
I’ve never been religious, but wrangling my political convictions and a love for clothing taught me the vicissitudes of negotiating two value systems that are seemingly at odds while attempting to craft an image that reflects my beliefs and is aesthetically pleasing (to me, at least). It is this tension that drives Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith, which looks at Muslim women who cover in contemporary England through a series of ethnographic profiles highlighting the diversity of their practices and perspectives. Anthropologist Emma Tarlo attends at length to how individual women reconcile visibly displaying their faith with the desire to dress fashionably and self-expressively.
Tarlo describes in great detail how her subjects adapt and negotiate signifiers of both Islam and style in order to craft their own looks, and she repeatedly emphasizes the great creativity of Muslim dress in the West. Noting that some of her subjects have more than 500 hijabs, she argues that the headscarf serves as “a new form of Muslim personal art” that in many cases “provides the aesthetic focal point of a young girl’s appearance.”
This nearly pocket-sized mini-book doesn’t hold the appeal of extensive text or impressive knowledge to share, but it sure offers up some amazing photographs and quirky advertising that’s almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
A member of the Taschen Icon series, the hot pink paperback is miniature version of the much pricier coffee-table edition. Not much writing sits between the front and back cover, only a short prologue by Laura Schooling of Style.com that outlines the era and delves into a short description of what it was like to live during the 60′s, handily including translations in English, German and French.
It all started when I was a kid. I would walk to the convenience store, get a blue raspberry lollipop filled with gum, and head to the thrift store a couple shops down in the strip mall, where I would peruse stacks of used books and feed my Archie comic addiction with their huge selection. I poked around other parts of the shop—at furniture, wicker baskets, old wedding dresses—but I wasn’t interested in that stuff yet. As I grew older, moved around, and found new thrift stores, the sections I checked changed: black clothes to cut up and safety-pin back together when I had just started high school; boots, belts, and shoes; dresses to alter once I started sewing, cassette tapes for when I got my car, and vinyl to play when my roommates had record players. Over time, I learned that the key was to check every section and leave your trip open to the thrill of discovery.
Now imagine someone who has dedicated most of his or her life to learning these tricks of the trade, someone who can perfectly describe the thrill of the hunt, the ever-growing mental list of things you want to find, the triumphs and tribulations of searching for that perfect item amongst the discarded. Al Hoff is that person, and reading Thrift Score feels like sitting down and listening to a real thrift expert funneling years of that knowledge straight into your brain. In her introduction, Hoff mentions that the content of Thrift Score is as varied as what you might find in a thrift store, and this observation is apt. Chock full of facts, tips, and trivia, it’s hard to believe so much information can be crammed into one book.