cover image Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes

Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton & 639 others. Penguin/Blue Rider, $30 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-0-399-16656-3

Thoughtfully crafted and visually entertaining, this collection, edited by Heti (How Should A Person Be?), Julavits (The Vanishers), and Shapton (Swimming Studies), uses personal reflections from 642 contributors to examine women’s relationship with clothes in a deceptively lighthearted and irreverent tone. Reminiscent of women’s collaborative book projects from the 1970s, women (and a few men) are quoted in survey responses, essays, artworks, and recorded snippets of conversation. Though the book satisfies voyeuristic pleasures, on a basic level, it also inspires meaningful questions by virtue of its structure; contributions are well-organized in short sections (participants like Lena Dunham and Cindy Sherman are granted longer entries) with surprising juxtapositions—for example, rapid-fire answers to the editors’ survey questions about shopping sit comfortably next to an essay on the political and personal implications of wearing a head scarf. The prose is spliced with striking visuals, such as photos of actress Zosia Mamet (Girls) imitating 50 poses from fashion magazine covers, and many passages yield deeper revelations: “What I Spent” uses a diary-style record of clothing and toiletry purchases to examine the effect that physical difference, such as scoliosis, has on self-presentation and confidence. A provocative time capsule of contemporary womanhood, this collection is highly recommended. B&w illus and photos throughout, 32 pages in full color. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)