cover image Dressed: A Philosophy of Clothes

Dressed: A Philosophy of Clothes

Shahidha Bari. Basic, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5416-4598-1

Bari (Keats and Philosophy), a professor at the London College of Fashion, skillfully deconstructs the language of clothes in this philosophical examination of the items people wear. She observes that the “making and wearing of clothes is an art form” for some, including for Sylvia Plath, whose writing shows a keen awareness of “how a certain ensemble might be sympathetic to the certain person you imagined yourself to be.” Bari’s analysis is at times Freudian (“And who dares deny that the pliant foot mimics the penis when it enters that dark, contracted space of the shoe”?) and at others literary, as when she muses about the significance of the worn coat in Nikolai Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat,” or of the white cropped mess jacket in P.G. Wodehouse’s novel Right Ho, Jeeves. Clothes in Hitchcock classics are also lovingly scrutinized (Cary Grant’s classic example of mid-20th-century executive-wear, a gray flannel suit, in North by Northwest, or the elegant outfits of Tippi Hedren’s socialite heroine in The Birds), as are the clothing shown in classic works of art (the elegant black gown in John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X) or on fashion catwalks, such as those of famed minimalist Yohji Yamamoto. Devoted fashion students will eagerly eat up every word of Bari’s well-researched and passionate work. (Mar.)