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Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes Hardcover – 13 Jun 2019
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"[A] clever, subtle book… Although [Bari's] writing is critically informed… her tone is insistently personal, intimate even… Between her main chapters she drops in lyrical accounts of her own encounters with specific items of clothing… Bari wants us to think not so much about what clothes say as how they make us feel." (Guardian)
"A fascinating cultural exploration of the layers of meaning inherent in the ways we dress ourselves, from Madonna's denim jacket and the paintings of Titian to Cary Grant's tailoring. If you think choosing what to wear is essentially a trivial activity, read this and you'll soon clothe your thoughts entirely differently." (Bookseller, Editor's Choice)
"[There are] many delectable facts waiting to be discovered in Shahidha Bari’s Dressed… Dressed is irresistible when Bari riffs with extraordinary breadth and depth on the cultural meanings of the items she describes… I put Dressed down having been dazzled by Bari’s learning and insights... In the end, Dressed is an argument for taking apparently frivolous things seriously... More than this, though, Bari communicates the joy and powerful sense of interconnected humanity clothes can bring.”" (Lucy Moore Literary Review)
"Dressed is a feast of a book, a supreme example of the new kind of essay – exploratory, reflective, full of the personal energy of Shahidha herself and also her wide knowledge."
About the Author
Shahidha Bari is a writer, academic and broadcaster working in the fields of literature, philosophy and art. Born in 1980, she studied at Cambridge and Cornell. She was one of the first ever BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers (2011) and a winner of the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism (2015). She teaches cultural theory at the University of London and is a Fellow of the Forum for Philosophy at the LSE. She writes for the Financial Times, Guardian and Frieze among other newspapers and journals. She features frequently on BBC Radio 4, and presents BBC Radio 3’s Arts and Ideas programme Free Thinking. She lives in London.
From the Publisher
In DRESSED, Shahidha Bari tracks the hidden power of clothes in our culture and our daily lives.
‘James Dean wears a blazing-red blouson jacket, as though he could wear it forever. It is a trim, light scarlet flash of a thing and it exemplifies the film’s spirit of youth, eternally reckless, rash and desirous. It is the coveted red jacket, ineffably sexy, smart and cool, that Jim trades for Plato's gun and in which Plato is fatally shot. But in life, as in film, the jacket could only ever belong to James Dean.’
Poster for Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Alexander McQueen, Lilac horsehair dress (Spring/Summer 2005)
Titian, Girl in a Fur (1536-38)
Leonardo Da Vinci, Handbag sketches
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Bari teaches cultural theory at London University. She writes for the Guardian, Financial Times and Frieze. She is a regular on BBC Radio 4 and 3.
The author argues that what we choose to buy and wear comes laden with economic, poliical and personal implications. She pleads with us not to buy without thinking about the human and other resources that have been used. Admirable, but I doubt many will do this for compulsive buying is too engrained in humankind.
The subject covered here is a vast one. Clothes she says tell our stories. Every chapter begins reminiscences. She analyses in depth the cultural meanings of the item under discussion. We are reminded that Primo Levi said shoes were the most important clothes item in war for they enable you to steal and run. We get tales from Shakespeare, Manet, classic films, artists such as Greco and Titian, and Dahl.
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, philosophers, sportsmen, and Freud are among many on whom Bari meditates. The learning and scholarship is very impressive. The syntax and use of adjectives and metaphors are all excellent and apt. You are bound to acquire loads of new information. For example, where does herringbone come from or houndstooth? Facts like the phrase 'elle a vu le loup'
are explained. Questions like why some crave for a fur coat are posed and answered.
This is a very enjoyable account of the clothes we wear. They can be very 'revealing'. It is not only aimed at women.