Book Review: Dressed – The Secret Life of Clothes

Continuing through the pile of Birthday Books, we come to the dud in the room.   Beauty was such an incredible read that it’s only fair that one of the others would utterly fail to be palatable.

Pros:  It’s a beautiful book.  The pages are thick, turn well on nice stitching, and the photographs are interesting, well-labeled, and plentiful.

Cons:  In short?  This is written by a feminist philosopher and … that’s what this is.  Now, I could manage that if it had a point.  I remember (back in the day) enjoying Naomi Wolf.  (These days I’d disagree in the main, but again – she had something to disagree *with*).

One should listen carefully to ideas with which one disagrees.  Sometimes there are pearls in the muck…. and at any rate, your own thinking is sharpened.  “Why is this wrong?” is an *excellent* question to ask oneself.   It’s an even more excellent question to give oneself as an essay prompt.  Reason it out!

But Bari didn’t have an argument to chew on.  I got through half of chapter two (suits) before I had to give up.   The text (past the introduction, which did have some pearlettes) is a discussion of the symbolism of popular culture, bit after bit, with no cohesive argument to be made – just the understanding that the argument has already been won, and the author is only piling evidence up.   Frankly, I got bored.  “Are you still piling up evidence for an argument you’re not planning to make?  Okay – I’m out.”

Bari spent very little time talking about CLOTHES qua clothes.  Clothes in art.  Clothes in cinema, yes.   But then she mentioned clothes in contexts with which I am extremely familiar… and she told 2/3 of the story, missing the point entirely.   Or was flat wrong.   Besides which, reading symbolism into every.single.thing gets old.  It’s pretentious.  Certainly there is symbolism to be found in most stories – particularly old ones.  But feminist symbolism in every object, five layers deep?  Um.  No.   K.I.S.S.   Wisdom is found in simple truths.

I’m having good fun reading for research, it’s extremely inspiring – even when the books aren’t much use for anything except decor.

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