I have no interest in fashion, and as a result I found The Chiffon Trenches both fascinating and deeply revulsive, with journalists being showered with (and expecting) free clothes, trips, and other generous gifts bestowed upon them by the very designers they cover. How could anyone think that this is ethically acceptable? That’s one part of this memoir.
Another is the intrigue at the various magazines the author worked for, in particular Vogue. The level of cattiness and underhanded politics at work there bored me thoroughly. The rest I found much more interesting, namely the personal journey and struggles of a gay African-American man from the South thrust into the New York fusion world–and who can remember each and every day of this life, it seems, by the specific outfit he wore, and what others wore. I guess that’s what makes him a fashion aficionado.
The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter is written by a woman who loves shopping especially when not directed toward buying anything, who defines the 20th century through just two people, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and who keeps, and adds to, her mother’s collection of handbag–in other words, a woman with a great love of fashion, utterly unlike me. That said, her book is a wonderful exploration of clothes, the relationship women have with clothes, and the difficult relationship between designers and older women. Fun, and deeper than it seems, even with the repeats that seem to stem from having recycled blog posts into a full-length book,
Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes makes the great point that fashion, and especially the low-cost kind pioneered by Zara and H&M, creates lots of waste, exploits garment-industry workers, and has severe environmental impact. There has to be a better way, and the author has many inspiring stories in the second half of the book that showcase ideas such as using natural dies, recycling polyester, or using robots.
But most of the examples she gives are pretty much unattainable, at least now, for regular people. $400 T-shirts? $500 jeans? Come on! And the very high-fashion that she so admires, which, it’s true, is sometimes leading the remarkable developments she chronicles, is the very industry that is busy making the masses believe that we need an entirely new wardrobe every season, if not every month. It all seems quite hypocritical.