Fear and clothing Unbuckling American style

Cintra Wilson

Book - 2015

As the former New York Times Critical Shopper, and voted one of Fashionista's 50 Most Influential People in New York Fashion, Cintra Wilson knows something about clothes. And in Fear and Clothing, she imparts her no-holds-barred, totally outrageous, astute, and hilarious wisdom to the reader. Wilson reports the findings of her "fashion road trip" across the United States, a journey that took three years and ranges across the various economic "belt regions" of America: th...e Cotton, Rust, Bible, Sun, Frost, Corn, and Gun Belts. Acting as a kind of fashion anthropologist, Wilson documents and decodes the sartorial sensibilities of Americans across the country. Our fashion choices, she argues, contain a riot of visual cues that tell everyone instantly who we are, where we came from, where we feel we belong, what we want, where we are going, and how we expect to be treated when we get there. With this philosophy in mind, Wilson tackles and unpacks the meaning behind the uniforms of Washington DC politicians and their wives, the costumes of Kentucky Derby spectators, the attractive draw of the cowboy hat in Wyoming, and what she terms the "stealth wealth" of distressed clothing in Brooklyn. --Publisher's description.

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Subjects
Published
New York: W.W. Norton & Company [2015]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
ix, 321 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
ISBN
9780393081893
0393081893
Main Author
Cintra Wilson (author)
  • Introduction: Starve, smoke, kill : Or: walk a mile in my Frankenhooker boots, Or: style matters, because clothes make you psychologically naked
  • San Francisco/the macramé belt : a closet from which to emerge a butterfly
  • Washington DC/the beltway : war and pleats : I love a man in a command-form fashion statement
  • Utah, ho!/the chastity belt : here come the brides
  • Jackson, Wyoming/the frost belt : sled dogs, cowboys, and wolf-fur codpieces
  • Miami/the sand belt : nudes in jewelry
  • Kansas/the gun belt : crow-eating and cognitive dissonance in the heartland
  • Los Angeles/the star belt : Hollywood and the uncanny Valley
  • The 137th Kentucky Derby/the bourbon belt : lifestyles of the rich and plastered
  • The Iowa State Fair/the butter belt : the culture in agriculture
  • The belle jar/the Bible belt : Scarlett wears her corset on the inside
  • Brooklyn/the futility belt : the false patina of poverty drag
  • The underworld/the garter belt : appropriations and inappropriations
  • New York (high) New York (low)/the money belt : the rich get richer, the poor get poorer; they both wear turquoise fur
  • Never-never land/the emperor's new belt : you can't always get what you want
  • Occupied territory/the bandolero : Guy Fawkes is the new black
  • Conclusion: To thine own style be true.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Jack Kerouac's On the Road is the inspiration for New York City–based Cintra Wilson, a former columnist for the New York Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and Salon. It's another fun and funny book that looks at people's different takes on fashion based on where they live and other demographics. Her observations will cause many heads to nod: She dubs Kansas the "gun belt," home of oversized clothing and camouflage outfits. Scarlett O'Hara comes full circle with Wilson's descriptions of the long-haired, full-cleavage motherly look. And, of course, San Francisco becomes the macramé belt, from Sausalito houseboats to drag queens (not to mention Haight-Ashbury). Her typologies are perfect; her writing, even better. A few excerpts: "Still, what became the biggest fashion revelation during my trip to Miami was the contents of my own suitcase . . . . ‘Jesus . . . is there anything you brought that isn't black?'" Or of her time in Northern California: "Counterintuitively enough, in becoming an overnight punk poseur, I became a more authentic version of myself . . . Punk rock . . . spoke to something restless, impulsive and contrary in me (now recognized as ADHD). . ." Wilson ultimately recognizes that there's much merit in "to thine own self be true" and supplies four tricks to make that happen. Fashion is permission, pure and simple. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Previously a contributor to the "Critical Shopper" column of the New York Times, Wilson debuts with a sociological travelog documenting style throughout the United States, journeying from Washington, DC, to her native San Francisco and on to Hollywood, Miami, and Brooklyn, with stops at the Kentucky Derby and the Sundance Film Festival. Along the way, the author considers faux military attire; fetish clothing; and "masstige," in which luxury brands collaborate with mass-market stores (e.g., Versace at H&M, Vera Wang at Kohl's), noting that fashion has stagnated in the past ten years, whereas each decade in the 20th century was indicative of a specific trend. Successfully arguing that our desires are tailored to us, Wilson examines the origins of Victoria's Secret and high-end lingerie shops, the commercialization of goth culture, and hip-hop's love affair with fashion. At times, it's uncomfortable to read Wilson's judgments about women's body sizes even while she claims she is not fat-bashing. Her derision of "ubiquitous" brands such as Ann Taylor and championing of luxury designers is intended to be snarky but awkwardly comes across as elitism. Yet, Wilson convincingly asserts that wealth defines fashion, fashion reflects politics, and "we are at our most naked when we have our most deliberately selected clothes on." VERDICT For skinny thrift store lovers who would never set foot in a department store or boutique shop unless absolutely necessary.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal [Page 100]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Wilson (A Massive Swelling), a former New York Times columnist, takes readers on a tour of America's wardrobes, showing that our nation's sartorial decisions are more than the simple donning of clothing each morning before work. Instead, these choices are as much about the communities we live in as they are about personal identity. In the nation's capital, for instance, the region's inhabitants "tend to dress very defensively. Their overprotective office-wear essentially serves as both camouflage and psychological body armor." Wilson describes the Southern woman's arsenal of poise, from big pearls and imperturbable hair to their expectations that "if women... aren't using our femininity strategically, we just aren't being smart." Though Wilson's cultural insights are not always profound (when describing the scantily clad actresses attending a film festival in winter, she writes, "Their fashion statements were supreme sacrifices of comfort that whimpered: Cast me: I have no sense of self-preservation whatsoever"), her sharp tongue, sardonic wit, and philosophical detours keep the journey entertaining. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Wilson reports the findings of her "fashion road trip" across the United States, a journey that took three years and ranges across the various economic "belt regions" of America: the Cotton, Rust, Bible, Sun, Frost, Corn, and Gun Belts. Acting as a kind of fashion anthropologist, she documents and decodes the sartorial sensibilities of Americans across the country. Our fashion choices, she argues, contain a riot of visual cues that tell everyone instantly who we are, where we came from, where we feel we belong, what we want, where we are going, and how we expect to be treated when we get there. With this philosophy in hand, she tackles and unpacks the meaning behind the uniforms of Washington DC politicians and their wives, the costumes of Kentucky Derby spectators, the attractive draw of the cowboy hat in Wyoming, and what she terms the "stealth wealth" of distressed clothing in Brooklyn.In this smart and rollicking book, Wilson illustrates how every closet is a declaration of the owner’s politics, sexuality, class, education, hopes, and dreams. With her signature wit and utterly irreverent humor, Wilson proves that, by donning our daily costume, we create our future selves, for good or ill. Indeed: your fate hangs in your closet. Dress wisely.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

New York TimesFashionistaFear and Clothing