Worn : a people's history of clothing

by Thanhauser, Sofi,

Format: Print Book 2022
Availability: Available at 6 Libraries 6 of 8 copies
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CLP - Homewood Non-Fiction Collection GT511.T53 2022
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CLP - Main Library Mezzanine - Non-fiction GT511.T53 2022
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Northern Tier Regional Library Fiction 391.009 THANH
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Upper St. Clair Township Library Art History 391.009 THA
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A NEW YORKER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR * A sweeping and captivatingly told history of clothing and the stuff it is made of--an unparalleled deep-dive into how everyday garments have transformed our lives, our societies, and our planet.

"We learn that, if we were a bit more curious about our clothes, they would offer us rich, interesting and often surprising insights into human history...a deep and sustained inquiry into the origins of what we wear, and what we have worn for the past 500 years." -- The Washington Post

In this panoramic social history, Sofi Thanhauser brilliantly tells five stories--Linen, Cotton, Silk, Synthetics, Wool--about the clothes we wear and where they come from, illuminating our world in unexpected ways. She takes us from the opulent court of Louis XIV to the labor camps in modern-day Chinese-occupied Xinjiang. We see how textiles were once dyed with lichen, shells, bark, saffron, and beetles, displaying distinctive regional weaves and knits, and how the modern Western garment industry has refashioned our attire into the homogenous and disposable uniforms popularized by fast-fashion brands.

Thanhauser makes clear how the clothing industry has become one of the planet's worst polluters and how it relies on chronically underpaid and exploited laborers. But she also shows us how micro-communities, textile companies, and clothing makers in every corner of the world are rediscovering ancestral and ethical methods for making what we wear.

Drawn from years of intensive research and reporting from around the world, and brimming with fascinating stories, Worn reveals to us that our clothing comes not just from the countries listed on the tags or ready-made from our factories. It comes, as well, from deep in our histories.
Linen. The last linen shirt in New Hampshire
Cotton. Texas fields
The fabric revolution
Silk. Yangtze silk
Costume drama
The rise of mass fashion
Synthetics. Rayon
Export processing zones
Wool. Army of the small

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "In this deep dive into the history of clothing, Thanhauser confronts the economic impact and environmental damage wreaked by cloth manufacturers throughout history. She considers various materials--linen, cotton, silk, synthetics, and wool--and reports on their origins, uses, and global marketing, effectively combining scrupulous research, interviews, examples drawn from history, literature, pop culture, numerous anecdotes, and engaging commentary. There are multiple mentions of the chronic mistreatment of women and dismissal of women's work, from early, men-only cloth guilds through modern-day exploitation. Along the way, Thanhauser considers crops, water supplies, clothing standards set by rulers, religions, big business versus small shops, unionization, patents, politics, and international competition, explaining how they've all played a part in creating the current countless tons of discarded clothing piling up in dumps around the world. After all this, readers might need a little positivity, and will find it in accounts of contemporary weavers returning to traditional methods and sensibilities. This is a fresh and thoughtful reconsideration about the clothes we wear."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Thanhauser, an artist who teaches writing at the Pratt Institute, debuts with a captivating and deeply researched study of the five main fabrics from which clothing is made: linen, cotton, silk, synthetics, and wool. Positing that "there is scarcely a part of the human experience, historic or current, that the story of clothes does not touch," Thanhauser spotlights historical periods--such as the brocaded silk courts of France's King Louis XIV--when each fabric was in vogue, and analyzes the political, cultural, and environmental impacts of their production. For example, she discusses the role of cotton ("the most widespread, profitable nonfood crop in the world") in the history of American slavery, the colonization of India, and the repression of Muslim Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang province, as well as its part in the sixfold increase in overall water consumption during the 20th century. Interweaving eye-popping statistics; immersive descriptions of Wyoming's Powder River Basin, China's Yangtze River Delta, and other locales; and vivid profiles of historical figures including union organizer Ella May Wiggins and sewing machine manufacturer Isaac Singer, Thanhauser unearths the secret life of fabrics with skill and precision. Readers won't look at their wardrobes the same way again. (Jan.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Clothing and dress -- History.
Clothing and dress -- Social aspects.
Fashion -- History.
Fashion -- Social aspects.
Textile fabrics -- History.
Publisher New York :Pantheon Books,2022
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description xviii, 375 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 305-353) and index.
ISBN 9781524748395
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