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: 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.
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.