'Women in Clothes' Is Your Antidote to Street Style Exhaustion

It could have been titled "Chicken Soup for the Fashion Week Survivor's Soul"
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Eliza Brooke
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It could have been titled "Chicken Soup for the Fashion Week Survivor's Soul"
500-plus pages of personal style. Photo: Nina Frazier-Hansen

500-plus pages of personal style. Photo: Nina Frazier-Hansen

Fashion Week's street style culture has come to beget equal parts glorification and griping. Last season, normcore provided a degree of relief for those suffering from an overdose on complicated and showy outfits. But white sneakers and dad jeans only go so far, especially when they're no more immune to ubiquity than anything else.

This time around, we suggest you kick it old school and seek the solace of literature when the circus becomes too much. Out Thursday from Blue Rider Press is "Women in Clothes," a 500-plus-page volume of women talking about their relationship to the clothing they wear. 

Authors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton sent out a survey to over 650 women worldwide, comprising prompts like "Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear" and "Do you consider yourself photogenic?" That group includes famous folks (Lena Dunham, Kim Gordon, Ruth Reichl) and normals alike, and the results are at turns equalizing and personal. Sometimes they're powerful, as when Reba Sikder, a Rana Plaza factory collapse survivor, talks through every horrifying detail of crawling her way to the surface of the rubble.

And that's the point: Women are complex creatures. (To be fair, men are, too.)

The anthropological thoroughness with which the authors approach their task could result in a well-intentioned snooze. But divided and re-mixed into a variety of individual conversations, photo series and bundles of answers to the same question, it makes for the kind of snackable book that you'll flip through out of order and pick at until you realize you've read it all. 

A few times it tips too far into whimsical researcher territory. We don't really need to see photographic evidence of a week's worth of blotting papers, neatly lined up on the page. But Zosia Mamet reenacting magazine poses in a leotard and ballet slippers is kind of wonderful. 

Some fun facts: News anchor Alex Wagner works in jeans and a flannel shirt until the last minute before she goes on air and changes out of her professional clothes just as soon after. Dunham is perpetually on the hunt for a denim jacket that makes her "feel like someone's high school crush or role model." A lot of people feel sexiest after a glass and a half of wine.

So when your mind gets too run down by TRENDS! and bucket bags and cameras and culottes, maybe put on some sweatpants, pour a glass of vino and give this book a spin.