01 February, 2008

Adorned in dreams: fashion and modernity was an interesting book of fashion history which was also trying to assess what fashion is. I liked it a lot: it discussed various ideas about fashion and how it works - does it enslave women and followers of fashion, for example, or is it a means of self-expression? It had some interesting things about fashion and modernity, especially when discussing Chanel: Wilson mentioned two things about Chanel that I thought were interesting. Firstly, on a pratical level, that she was the first designer to take aspects of sportswear and incorporate them into female fashions (male fashions had been modelled on male riding wear from the beginning of the 19th century), and secondly, that a lot of her clothes were deliberately unimpressive: tat under her influence, the clothes of rich women and of poorer women became a lot more similar in style, if still distinguished by the quality and fabric. [1]

On my other blog I quoted this passage:

Chanel created the 'poor look', the sweaters, jersey dresses and little suits that subverted the whole idea of fashion as display; although her trenchcoats and 'little nothing' black dresses might be made of the finest cashmere and her 'costume jewellery' - careless lumps of what looked like glass - were uncut emeralds and diamonds.

I also enjoyed Janet Radcliffe Richards' The sceptical feminist, which I've been reading for a while and finally finished: it's a lovely logical examination of some of the tenets of feminism and whether or not they're valid. She does quote some truly bonkers ideas, so I have to keep reminding myself that she's writing at the end of the 70s/beginning of the 80s when there were more truly bonkers ideas around. But her careful tracing and refutations of the arguments why women should be excluded from certain jobs or activities - or, on the other hand, her questioning of whether feminists should reject 'feminine' adornment - is a real delight. [2]

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