Writing About Shopping: Women in Clothes and A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy Defy Fashion Lit Stereotypes

Everybody Wears Clothes, So Why Are We Ashamed to Write About Them?


Well, if anyone should recognize writing that carries an air of snooty derision...
Women in clothes sounds awesome.

My two favorite novels about clothing are both by Zola: The Ladies' Paradise and L'Assammoir. The first has to do with the development of department stores (it's based on the rise of the Bon Marche in the mid 19th century) and the second is about a woman who runs a laundromat in the slums. Zola can be kind of snooty, but his snootiness gets overwhelmed by pages and pages spent describing clothes, fabrics, fashion, etc.

I do think there's often a distinction in books between clothing and fashion. Most economic analyses (that I've read) on clothing focus on conditions of production, tariffs, economic policies, labor, etc, and spend very little time discussing clothing in terms of fashion. As in, very little time discussing why anyone would want to wear this particular shirt over that particular shirt (besides in light of the previous modes of analysis.) On the other hand, all those types of analysis are often voided when discussing fashion and aesthetics. That's partly why the Ladies' Paradise is so fascinating--Zola does both.

I've often complimented your reviews. I wanted you to know that while reading this one, I thought of a group of my friends who are going to learn about these books. They are fathers. Every one of them loves their daughters, and every one of them will be better served by knowing about these books at some point in their life.