Saturday, November 22, 2014

Worn Stories

Title:  Worn Stories
Author:  Emily Spivack
Publication Information:  Princeton Architectural Press. 2014. 200 pages.
ISBN:  1616892765 / 978-1616892760

Book Source:  I read this book because I appreciate the idea that objects - in this case, clothing - hold memories.

Favorite Quote:  "The clothes that protect us, that make us laugh, that serve as a uniform, that help us assert our identity or aspirations, that we wear to remember someone - in all these are encoded the stories of our lives. We all have a memoir in miniature living in a garment we've worn."

"Our clothes are full of memory and meaning. That's why we all have garments - hanging in our closets, shoved in the backs of drawers, and boxed up in garages - that we haven't worn in years but just can't part with. And then there are the clothes we wear every day, whose stories are still unfolding."

That is the premise of this book, and it is such a true one. I have my father's winter hat and scarf. I have a scarf hand embroidered by my grandmother. I have the sweater my mother knit. So many memories and so many stories. Memories and stories that are special to me. maybe only to me. Memories and stories that may be lost once I am no longer here to remember. What a wonderful idea to capture these stories and preserve them.

Capturing such stories is what this book and the author's website Worn Stories does. The book consists of images of about 70 pieces of clothing followed by a short essay on the significance of that item to the person - the story behind it, if you will. The essays are either written by the individual or "as told to the author". The stories included are from a diverse and eclectic set of individuals including:
  • Susan Bennett, the original voice of Apple's Siri
  • Rosanne Cash, singer and song writer
  • Dapper Dan, fashion innovator from Harlem
  • Heidi Julavits, a professor at Columbia
  • Piper Kerman, who gained recognition for her memoir of her year in prison
  • Marcus Samuelsson, chef and restaurateur

The collection of items is just as eclectic, ranging from a tie to Converse sneakers, from a leather belt to a floral dress. The stories travel through time and space, ranging from New York to Alaska to World War II Poland. Some are reminders of a big moment in life, and some of the ordinary moments that ultimately make special memories.

Some items like the vest made for a wedding, the sash with badges earned as a Girl Scout, and leg warmers worn before a performance are reminders of a time in life. Some items like the shoes worn to walk the Great Wall of China, the white coat with memories of growing up in a family business, and the T-shirt bought to beat the city heat are reminders of a place. Some like the torn sweatshirt worn at the hospital keeping vigil, the blue oxford shirt that seemed a uniform, and the tie hand made with love are reminders of a special person.

As with books that represent collections of stories, I did not read this book through from start to end. It sat on my nightstand for a couple of weeks, and I found myself savoring an essay here and there. Each one stands alone. The book can be read from end to end, or flipped open to read just one essay. Some may strike a chord, and some may seem ordinary.

Either way, the truth holds. We all have such stories of our lives in our closets. What is yours?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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