No. 12 >> The Clothing Issue: A wolf in sheep's duds.

MAKING THE WORK // Hungry Like the Wolf

My book has been a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t mean in the biblical, sinister way, I just mean that it’s been in disguise. I could just as easily say that the book has been a cat in dog’s clothing. 

A. and I were on our Toronto Island retreat when I uncovered the truth about the disguise. We were lounging on the sheet-draped couches in our dingy, but private, portable and having a downbeat conversation about writing. I say it was downbeat because so much about writing is problem-solving and sometimes the problems make me feel as worn out as a cucumber in a convent. We were on a retreat to sort some of our creative problems out though, so I tried to be positive and find new ways to talk about the book. 

My book has always embraced hybridity, so I’ve long known it had some wolf in it, even though it claimed to be a sheep. So I said to A. that maybe I needed to treat the book more like a wolf. 

“That’s exactly what you should do,” said A. 

I perked up a bit. Then I casually said that if I treated the book like a wolf then it’d almost be a wolf—a certain kind of wolf—not a sheep. Then I let the topic go.

The next day I thought more about the book being that wolf, instead of a sheep. It dawned on me ever so slowly that letting it be a wolf would actually solve so many of my problems. The revelation was stunning—so simple and yet so sought after. The book had been a wolf all along, but I couldn’t see it because the sheep’s clothing was draped all over it. My mouth hung open and my eyes widened. A. said I looked like the OMG cat

I’ve thought I’ve found answers before, but they’ve turned out to be wrong, which is why I’m talking about this in metaphor. But this feels right. I feel a lot of relief and gratitude for that, but it also makes me want to get drunk and rail about all the lost time and EMOTIONS that it took to get me to this point and how things would be different if I’d just got there sooner and how making widgets would be a lot easier than writing. But even I think I’d sound like an entitled, whiny little dink if I did that, so I’ll restrain myself and be a semi-grown-up about this.

And now I have to tend to my wolf, but I’d appreciate it if we could have a Duran-Duran moment together first—I’m lost and I’m found and I’m hungry like the wolf.

 

READING // Women In Clothes

How do women present themselves through their clothes? What does style really mean? Those are the questions at the heart of a hefty new book called Women in Clothes, released last week in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. (Blue Rider Press, Penguin UK, and S. Fischer Verlag).  

Women In Clothes is edited by a trio of smart, literary ladies: Sheila HetiHeidi Juvalits and Leanne Shapton. Content for the book was crowd-sourced from “639 others” through interviews, conversations, surveys, projects, diagrams and drawings. Some of the contributors are famous, like Lena Dunham, Miranda July, and Molly Ringwald—and then there’s a vast array of the not-famous—including me (I'm trying to be cool about this, but I'm pretty excited).

Last year, the Women In Clothes survey, which is the heart of the book, was going around on social media with an open invitation to fill it out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, or even if I should because I don’t see myself as stylish—nor do I have the kind of body that is seen in the fashion pages. The survey drew me in though with questions like: "Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing?" And, "Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear." 

I sent my survey off and heard back from one of the editors. She asked if I’d annotate a blank body outline that Leanne Shapton had drawn. I was to view the body as a collection of “story sites.” I wrote about my lips, thyroid gland, biceps, hands, and my mysteriously short toe named Stumpy. It became page 231. A few quotes from my survey also made it into the book.

Since its release, Women in Clothes has been named a best new book by both People Magazine and Vanity FairThe Millions called it “a little bit revolutionary” and even the Financial Times of London has reviewed it. 

NPR sums it up this way: “In Women in Clothes, the artful, often elitist language of fashion is stripped away, leaving behind a conversation that is funny, painful, certainly vulnerable and ultimately empowering”... which is exactly how I felt when I wrote my submission.
 

SEEN & HEARD // Orwellian Apparel 

I bet, at some point in time, folks thought the future was here when Velcro was invented. But that was a kinder, gentler future than the Orwellian future that Edward Snowden alerted us to. Clothing maker The Affair is responding to this new future with its 1984 Stealth Fashion Collection, designed to keep ‘surveillors’ at bay.

Inside the line’s workshirt, chinos, jacket, and blazer there is a removable “UnPocket” made of police-grade shielding fabric that blocks cellular, WiFi, GPS, and RFID signals so Big Brother can’t eavesdrop. So if you’re doing more than texting kissy-face emoticons to your beloved on your old LG phone, the “untrackable and unhackable” line might be for you. Judging by the promo video, in addition to being worried about surveillance, you should also be beautiful—and wear the 1984 line in such a way that vast amounts of your chest area are still exposed.