The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History

Kassia St. Clair. Liveright, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-63149-480-2
This fascinating selection of “13 very different stories” about textiles “help illustrate the vastness of their significance,” restoring them to their rightful place as a central human technology. Fashion writer St. Clair (The Secret Lives of Color) writes that “technologies using perishable materials... may have been more pivotal in the daily lives of the people who lived through them, but evidence of their existence has... been absorbed back into the earth.” She takes readers across the globe, following discoveries of ancient fabric from the Caucasus Mountains (some of them 23,000 years old) to Egypt (where, St. Clair explains, the language contained many words for fabric and wrapping) and then on to China (where silk was used for clothing but also embroidered poetry) and Viking lands (St. Clair highlights the English preoccupation with wool). Textiles went hand in hand with human evolution as Homo sapiens moved from warm climates to cold ones, advanced from sewing pelts to weaving fabrics and from spinning silk to spinning wool. Chapters on more modern textiles include thoughtful disquisitions on space suits, sweatshops, and blue jeans (and the denim tuxedo jacket Levi’s made for Bing Crosby after a hotel ejected him for wearing jeans). Written in elegant prose, this tour of textile history will draw in readers interested in human evolution and culture. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 06/17/2019
Release date: 11/12/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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