Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women In Clothes - It's About The Stories

Last year I received an email from a friend with the link to a survey for a project called Women in Clothes.  The survey consisted of about 40 or so questions, such as:

When do you feel the most attractive?
What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you? 

Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could and returned the survey.   Fast forward to September 2014....

we have the book!!

People who submitted surveys received emails updating them on the status of the book, and in July I received an email with the release date and a list of book launch events, one of which was happening in Toronto.  Of course I had to go, as this was the first book I had been a part of (I am quoted on page 464), and as it turns out, it's a wonderful book. 

Editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton (who are all published authors) have put together a collection of essays, illustrations, photos, and interviews that address why women wear what they wear.  It's not a style guide; there is no section on fashion trends, what not to wear, where to shop, or how to dress your body.  There are no photos of the women who are featured in the book, which keep the focus on the stories.... and what wonderful stories they are.  Each of us - young, old, rich, poor, living in India, Iceland, Texas, or Montreal, make conscious or unconscious decisions when we get dressed in the morning.  The book gives us a peek at the thought processes, emotions, and inspirations of several hundred women as they decide how to clothe their bodies.   Some of the contributors are famous - musician Kim Gordon, blogger Tavi Gevinson, writer and actor Lena Dunham, artist Miranda July, etc., but most of them are women living their lives under the radar all over the world.  The stories are funny, sad, inspiring, entertaining and reassuring.  The book makes clothing into something that unites us all as women, instead of something that divides us into categories of "fashionable", "conservative", etc. and I felt a connection to the other women in the book while I was reading it.  The reviews have almost all been extremely positive, but one reviewer complained that there is not enough ethnic diversity represented by the women featured in the book.  While it is possible (and probably likely) that the majority of the surveys were completed by white women living in Canada and the United States, the editors include stories and interviews with women from Korea, Egypt, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Croatia, and Poland, to name a few.

To me, one of the most moving sections in the book was titled "Mothers as Others".  Participants were asked to submit a photo of their mother before she became a mother and give their impressions of the woman they saw in the photo.  Many of the photos showed young, carefree women having fun, and I realized that I have no such photos of my mother, which made me feel rather sad.

 

The Launch Party....

 

The Toronto book launch party was held on Thursday, September 8th at gravitypope, on Queen Street West.  I had never been to the store, but had heard about their jaw-dropping selection of beautiful (albeit expensive) shoes.  I invited two other bloggers, Megan and Suzanne, to join me.  Suzanne and I spent the afternoon together (more about that in another post), and Megan joined us  for dinner before we went to the party. 

The event had been all over social media, and the editors had been interviewed that morning on CBC by Jian Ghomeshi so I was not surprised to see that the store was packed with people, with a lineup outside.  It was rather claustrophobic and I found myself seeking out any little unoccupied corner of space I could find.

The Wall of Shoes (there were two other smaller ones as well as several tables full of men's and women's footwear)

 
I swooned a little over these studded brogues in the men's section.  These would go with so many of my fall and winter outfits....

 The other pair of shoes that almost sent me into cardiac arrest were these metallic blue Trippens

All the staff at gravitypope are quite stylish, but this young man caught my attention with his simple tunic and pants set off by great accessories.  The ring!  Those shoes!

The three editors, (left to right) Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, were interviewed on the store's staircase.

All of the book launch parties feature a clothing swap, and Suzanne and I brought some items to add to the mix.  It was rather satisfying to see that the three items I brought were scooped up fairly quickly.

The editors asked that women attach their name, and a story about the item, to each item they brought.  Suzanne pointed out this skirt to me, and while I was drawn to the happy mix of colours, it was the story that compelled me to take it home.

I also selected this made-in-India jacket and skirt, which had been previous owned by Annette, who, according to the tag attached to the outfit, is in her mid 50's, has three sons, and sells vintage clothing online.

Suzanne (r) chatted with a woman who used to own a funky clothing store in London, Ontario back in the day and now lives in Toronto.  It was a pleasant surprise to run into her.

The editors settled themselves on one of the couches to sign copies of the book.

This woman was in the line to get her copy of the book signed so I seized the opportunity to get a photo of her cool t-shirt.

Great glasses, cool hair, and a bold print

A young woman from shedoesthecity was wearing this cute pendant

I didn't bring my copy of the book with me to get signed, but I managed to exchange a few words with Sheila Heti as she took a break from signing.  She was very charming and personable, and I wish I could have had an opportunity to chat with all three editors.  Unfortunately, the photo shows the least interesting part of my outfit;  I also wore a flouncy vintage slip that hung below my dress, black and white tights and my pink "Krista Cons".

The crowd started to thin out around 8:30 pm so I was able to get a photo that showed more of the store.  The second floor is dedicated to cool (and, of course, expensive) clothing.

Now, a treat -  I have a copy of Women In Clothes to give away to one of my readers!  Unfortunately, as it is a rather heavy book (515 pages), I can only ship within Canada and the United States.  If you would like to have your name included in the draw for the book, please leave a comment, include your email address (if I don't have it already) and the answer to the following question:

"Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear.  What is it, why don't you wear it, and why do you keep it?"

The winner will be announced on Monday, October 6th.

35 comments:

  1. I have a lovely old Carole Little pantsuit that's hopelessly dated. But I always felt beautiful in it. I hang on to it just in case ....

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  2. Dang that's some party, signing celebration! I was fascinated when you mentioned it to me and I still am. I think it's so cool you and Suzzane saw each other, I'm jealous!! The clothing swap is something I have never participated in but would love too, of course your stuff was snatched up, you got good taste! I'm honored my necklace came along! You look unforgettable you as always. Beautifully funky!

    Onto your question, I have way more than one item:). It's the sexiest floor length sequin jacket, with slits up both sides, the color is champagne and it looks like opulence. I wanna feel like I can full it off someday.
    Xxxxxxoooooo

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  3. I have a vintage hockey jersey from my high school team that belonged to my step dad. I wore it once or twice in high school, but haven't since. It's itchy and bizarre, but I love it nonetheless! I consider it to be "in the archives"!

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  4. What a cool event!!

    I keep a vintage dress from the 40s/50s I thrifted and wore in high school, but will never fit into again. I am obsessed with blue roses and the dress brings back memories <3

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  5. The Wall of Shoes! The Trippens! The blogger date! And that T-sheet - Be Your Own Oprah - I love it (I hate Oprah). What a fabulous evening! The book sounds really interesting, but you do not need to put me in the drawing. Someone else would appreciate it much more than I would. I will answer the question though - I have my wedding dress, which I never wear, but I'll keep it because, duh, it's my wedding dress! I did use it in a blog post last year. It's a little tight now!

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  6. I think a clothing party at a book launch is too perfect, especially with little stories attached. Genius idea. Of course your duds would have been snapped up - as they should have been at your yard sale. Those lucky Torontonians! I would have fainted at the shoes and perhaps at the prices, but what a visual blast. This looks like a hip, happening party. I'm excited for you, Shelley, being in what looks to be a timeless book. I need to read your quote! Plus, you got to hook up with Suzanne and Megan.

    The answer: I have a navy blue baseball T-shirt my brother used to wear, short in the front and longer in the back. I used to wear it. Then my brother died unexpectedly. Now I don't wear it but I look at it and hold it.

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  7. That looks like an absolutely fascinating event and the book sounds so interesting.
    I'm delighted that you and Suzanne had a day out together, two blogging friends taking the world by storm.
    Who wouldn't want to own your clothes? I know I would! x

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  8. Wow, Shelley - the company, the stories, and the setting - tremendous! I had to have a look and really think about your question - I keep a traditional Ukrainian dress and vest from among my grandma's belongings that I won't wear due to size and fragile condition, but everything else is intended to be enjoyed. Congrats on being included in the book!

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  9. What a great event! Everyone looks so cool and interesting.
    What do I have but don't wear? Many years ago I bought two purple floral dresses. I wore them to everything I was invited to (and stood out at weddings as the only person wearing color, but that's another story) and both looked and felt gorgeous. Well, I've put on a few pounds and they no longer fit...but I've been exercising more to slim down and maybe, someday, my daughter would like to wear them to an event. They'll be "vintage" by then but no less beautiful.

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  11. What a very interesting project with which to be involved, Shelley, and a great event to launch the book! I really like the idea of combining the book launch with a clothes swap, and the little notes attached add even more value. How lovely to meet up with Suzanne and Megan too.
    Yes, clothes certainly have a lot to say about us, and our relationship with them can clearly be highly personal and emotional, as witnessed by some of the stories in the comments above. History, family, significant events, loss, a representation of who we were, or who we want to be - those unworn items you asked about encompass so much.
    A very thought-provoking post. xxx

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  12. I deleted my earlier comment as it was about something I still wear- oops!

    As I said before though, lovely day, lovely store and congrats on being in the book!

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  13. I loved your write up I can't be in the draw because I'm in the UK I'm in the book and I have my copy (isn't it fab?) but I will tell you that I have a dress in a fabulous print that looks great on the hanger but makes me look like a frumpy matron - I'm plucking up the courage to unpick it and remake it. x

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  14. There are quite a few pieces that I have used in photographs but have never worn out in public. Perhaps there will be the right situation, or I might use the material to alter into another garment.

    I'm interested in the publication - tvonzalez at gmail.com

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  15. What a splendid evening! Thanks for sharing it with us,
    About 25 years ago,I purchased from a dress boutique on Richmond Row,a vintage inspired black linen dress with an upper bodice of black and white polka dot organza. Twenty two years ago,I wore this dress on a blind date with my future husband. We had a magical evening at the Black and White Ball at Museum London. Everything is wonderful! The dress reminds me of so many awesome memories.,but unless I lose a few pounds I can't wear it with ease. Perhaps,after this public 'confession' I'll be inspired to lose some weight so I can,again,enjoy this very special dress? k_patton@rogers.com

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  16. That is the coolest thing ever, Shelley. I love the concept of the book and the fact that you're in it is awesome. What a great read it must be. And the party, woo-hoo. I immediately thought of one particular dress when you asked the question. My black lace unlined victorian inspired dress. ahh. I wore it 20 years ago at the opening of my solo show with a black unitard underneath it. It's a great story. Maybe I'll write a post about it. I missed a connection to what would become my future husband at the gallery reception. Only to find he had left a note on my pelvis sculpture the following month when I returned to take down the show. The rest is history. It's grown much too small now...

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  17. In answer to the question of the unworn item: does it matter if it's not strictly speaking in my closet, but nevertheless lovingly stored, never to be thrown away? I cut of a pair of jeans to make short shorts in my senior year of high school. My bad boy older brother wickedly suggested that I embroider a tunnel on the - ahem - rump, and a set of train tracks going up the middle. I wickedly followed his suggestion. (Found silver thread for the trestles.) And I wickedly wore them to school. Today, I probably couldn't get them past my hips, but I'll never give them up. - Valerie

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    1. Oh no! The first half of my comment was cut off. Rrrr! (Good thing I made a copy!) Those are such thought-provoking questions! What a great idea for a book! Clothes are so much more than body covers. And Mothers and Others is a great topic. Most of us fail to think of our mothers as having led completely different and fulfilling lives prior to our arrival. As for you, Miss Shelly, bashful till the end, you just barely mention that you are in the book, and don't give us so much as a snippet of what you wrote! Do tell! (Oh, sorry - clever ploy to make us buy the book! Very canny!) Sooo glad to hear that this has already made it to the New York Times best seller list! (And, because my proofreader has left for the evening, I wrote CUT OF in my earlier partial response when I should have written CUT UP. Sheesh.) - Valerie, redux

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    2. No bashfulness here - while you can read all my survey answers on the book website, they only used a one sentence answer to one of the questions in the book, and it's not particularly interesting or provocative. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to have been involved in the book at all.

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    3. AND I see I misspelled your name! Sheesh! What else can go wrong?!

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  18. It was so fun to do this with you Shelley and meet you in person. I'm so happy you invited me and we made a day out of it. It was nice meeting Meagan as well. I can't wait to see you wearing those items. I have decided to give that sweet dress I got to my niece. I think it will fit her perfectly.

    I hope you got the file I tried to share via Dropbox. There were more photos there.

    I'm still hanging out with my sister till the end of the week.

    I really cannot think of pieces in my closet that I don't wear at all. There is one t-shirt that I painted by hand for my husband when we met that I also used to wear of Gaston Le Gaffe that I have kept in the hall closet, strictly for sentimental reasons.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  19. I still want to contribute to this contest so here goes.

    I have a tie dye t shirt that is died with oranges and yellows on the front and blues and purples on the back. It has a sun drawn on the front and a moon on the back. I got it when I was 18 and have so many fun times embedded into that shirt. I wore it all the time. My middle child is now 16 and he wants to know if he can have it, and I think I will let him, and smile while the good times I had in it when I was around his age rub off onto him :)

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  20. What a fabulous event Shelley!
    I have those vintage dresses i purchased in San Francisco that i never wear,go figure!
    I keep them cause it was purchased in such an amazing hood in SF i can't bring myself to part with them- It seems i'm holding on some groovy times in San Francisco

    Hugs

    Ariane

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  21. hi Shelley! I purge my closet all the time to make room for more clothing of course so I can honestly say I wear it all! But please, can I be in the draw?

    Ellie

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  22. I have a number of items of clothing that I appear to have bought for a life I don't have. The shiniest example is a pair of bright red patent leather four-inch open-toe stilettos with a bow on the front.

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  23. I used to visit the Gravity Pope in Vancouver, but now I visit a different section of town when I go over.

    I keep two sweaters that my mom made for my dad when they were dating, which would have been in the early 60s. One is an oatmeal cabled cardigan, with leather woven buttons - it is one of a pair (I have my dad's, and I gave away my mom's when I was in high school). The other is a green pullover that has knit cabling. I used to wear it as a (very large) oversized top with skinny purple bleach-distressed jeans (made myself) when I was in university in 1985. I used to spray both sweaters with Jovan musk (I loved it back in high school) to get rid of the wet-dog wool smell. My dad died when I was 29 (he was 55), and even though I have now owned the sweaters longer than he did, every so often when I clean out my closet, I'll put them on and pretend I can smell my dad (I swear I smell a bit of musk!). It's like getting a hug from him. He died 17 years ago as of last Monday.

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  24. Here's a post from several years ago where I'm showing these two sweaters (and another that I don't feel as sentimental about): http://sheilaephemera.blogspot.ca/2010/05/never-seen-special-stuff.html

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  25. A zillion thanks to you for bringing this book to my attention! I am not sure I would have come across it on my own, and though I've barely gotten through a fraction of it so far, I am greatly enjoying it. :)

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