Reading List: May/June 2014

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In no particular order:

Virginia Postrel. The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture and Consciousness.

Lars Svendsen. Fashion: A Philosophy.

Maya Donenfeld. Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials.

David Braeber. Debt: The First 5000 Years.

Sara Ahmed: The Promise of Happiness.

Simon Reynolds. Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past

Some of it is heavy, some of it is not so much. All of it is connected in my mind in some way to questions of how the crafted surface of the self matters in the world. How style matters, and to what extent the way we present ourselves socially shapes our identity. The system of signification clothing navigates in a world stratified along lines of power/class/gender/culture. I’m also interested in the social consequences of our ideas about consumption and the way we are led to consume despite them.

To illustrate: I get this idea in my head that I’m going to be a better global citizen consumer and start making my own clothes. I really suck at this so far, so I’m burning through a lot of fabric in the process, and I’m sure that has a social/environmental cost I’m happily pushing out of my head. I’m also deluding myself in seeing this as a pursuit of some minimalistic lifestyle, because fabric.com has become my fantasy closet and even though I want to make my own wardrobe that fits well and is an expression of my creativity, when I finally do get to be okay at it, my current, fully functional clothes are going to probably be waste material or donated (not a perfect social solution either). So as part of my challenge to myself, I want to try to incorporate the fabric from my current wardrobe into my as yet nonexistent super fantastical vintage inspired future wardrobe.

While scouring the internet for vintage patterns, I saw a digitized version of a book that described how to make clothes out of cotton sacks. How to unknit a moth eaten sweater and mend it. It was written during WW2 during the lean years when men were gone and Veronica Lake was modeling how to put one’s hair up for factory work. It’s easy forget the historical context that some of my favorite patterns come from, and what women were able to craft out of so much less than what I possess. That fact is humbling, and inspiring, and circles me back around to questions about what humans really need to be creative, to be happy, and what false ideas of happiness and ownership and necessity and normalcy we are fed via ad images and pop culture in order to keep us hungry for more.

(image credit: Van Gogh sketch from here)

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