Read IN BED: Women In Clothes

Words & Images by Hannah-Rose Yee

“After those seven years immersed in women’s fashion magazines, I still dress as I always have – in used men’s clothes and lots of vintage – but I can afford better vintage and can appreciate great design after paying attention to it. I still buy fashion magazines. I cut them up, responding to what I’m drawn to, and paste these clippings into scrapbooks. In this way, I’ve tailored my formerly uneasy relationship to the fashion world.” Leanne Shapton, Women In Clothes

This is my new favourite book. It arrived one day when I was at work, and it was waiting on the doorstep for me when I got home. I ran inside, put water on for pasta and ripped into the packaging greedily, flicking through every page and skimming the whole thing over dinner. I’ve since gone back and dipped into it here and there, reading more widely, taking it in.

How to describe this book… It’s written by three authors – Sheila Heti, Heidi Juvlatis and Leanne Shapton – and it’s primarily a meditation on clothes and the way we feel about them. There are interviews with contributors, poems, pictures (one great chapter shows women sharing pictures of their mothers when they were younger and discussing their clothes), essays, creative non fiction, diagrams…. There’s surveys, where people from around the world – real people, but also celebs like Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson – talk about their relationship with fashion. There’s a section where Sheila, Heidi and Leanne go up to women on the street and compliment their clothes. There’s a section where women photograph their hands, talking about their jewellery.

It’s wonderful on a level that I almost can’t explain. A review of the book spoke about how – great though the book is – it reinforces the idea that women need to have a reason to love clothes rather than just, well, loving them. Sometimes a pair of buttery-soft ballet flats are only ever a pair of buttery-soft ballet flats. I agree with that, but I also think that – like any other kind of hobby or pursuit or interest – women love clothes for a whole raft of different reasons. Some do genuinely love them just because they’re pretty, but some, and I think the people that Sheila, Heti and Leanne profiled fall into this category, love them because they signify something, because they remind them of something, because they create a persona, because they make them feel strong, because they are a form of art, because they just love clothes. There’s nothing wrong with that.