Saturday 27 August 2022


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Worn: A people's history of clothing by Sofi Thanhauser   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Worn is a wide-ranging and compelling look at clothing and textiles through the lens of five fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, synthetics and wool. Thanhasuer explores the social, economic, and environmental impacts of one of our most intimate possessions. A material culture history that reveals global links, as well as personal stories and our desire for clothes from ancient to contemporary times. As a maker of objects and a lover of clothes and their construction, with a good dose of interest in history and the social fabric that binds people and things, I loved this book. Each page revealed another fascinating detail in the history of clothing and the people who were engaged in the planting and harvesting of plants, in the processes — natural or chemical — and manufacture of fibre and the twisting, weaving or whatever other method imaginable to make fabric and then those textiles into the clothes we wore (and wear), through necessity and desire. Whether it is the arrival of the ‘season’ as denoted by the French court of Loius XIV or the rise of the factory workers in New York city fueled by the influence of young educated Jewish migrant women or the appalling treatment of workers in the American South, historically (slave and cheap labour) and today (illegal migrants) or the environmental impact of over-production of cotton in both America and China to the detriment of the land, the people and water reserves, you will find something in Thanhuaser's explorations that will surprise, intrigue and pique your curiosity about our relationship with what we wear and the origins of this relationship. The crafting of this book makes the vessel filled with so many facts, geopolitical analysis, fine details, expansive timeframes, technological advances, rich personal stories and empathetic observation, a pleasure to read. The decision by Thanhauser to tell this story through the lens of the five fabrics and the focus on particular (historical as well as contemporary) individuals — its people — makes Worn a lively, empathetic and engaging cultural history. 

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