Obsessed by Dress

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Beacon Press, 2000 - Design - 175 pages
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Self-adornment (or its stern refusal) has been an unquenchable human impulse in all eras and places. From the toga to the little black dress, Tobi Tobias considers no less than the entire history of the human struggle with fashion by juxtaposing observations from philosophers, writers, and designers-from Plato to Coco Chanel—so that the authors speak to each other about the power of fashion.Oscar Wilde: "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." Jane Austen: "Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim." From literature high and low, ancient and modern, Obsessed by Dress includes quotations from Dorothy Parker, Marcel Proust, Ru Paul, Mark Twain, Virgil, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Arranged with incomparable flair, these quotes both delight and challenge us to consider the role of clothes in our lives as they assert views about beauty, vanity, identity, and self-expression. "Show me the clothes of a country and I can write its history."—Anatole France "Only God helps the badly dressed." —Spanish proverb "Probably every new and eagerly expected garment ever put on since clothes came in fell a trifle short of the wearer's expectation." —Charles Dickens "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."—Henry David Thoreau "Almost every man looks more so in a belted trench coat."—Sydney J. Harris "Brevity is the soul of lingerie." —Dorothy Parker "There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they would mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking."—Virginia Woolf
 

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Contents

the argument
13
acquisition
14
the cost of clothes
19
clothes at the heart of the story
22
the bodydress connection
29
dress as selfexpression
37
dress revealing dress concealing
40
dressing for others or ourselves?
42
style
97
the street
99
indigenous dress
101
dressing for effect
102
parading dress
103
dishevelment
105
decorum
108
artifice
112

the persuasive power of dress
44
fancy dress
47
fashion vs mind and character
48
pleasure in dress
51
dress in words
52
accessories
57
lingerie
59
shoes
60
jewelry
65
cosmetics
68
mirrors
72
appearances
74
dressmaking
75
the mannequin
77
the tyranny of fashion
81
the mutability of fashion
83
secondhand clothes
87
fashion as history
90
fashion as art
92
color in dress
95
against ostentation
114
nudity
116
dandyism
120
feminism and dress
125
crossdressing
130
the erotic power of dress
133
dress as depravity
139
the material world
140
what every woman knows
142
ball dress
145
mourning costume
148
uniforms
149
defying convention
154
nostalgia for clothes
159
age and dress
162
animals in clothes
165
fashion axioms
169
afterword
171
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About the author (2000)

Tobi Tobias is the intriguingly dressed dance critic for New York magazine. Her essays on fashion and related "food for the eye" have appeared in New York, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Dance Ink. She is the author of over two dozen books for children, most recently A World of Words and Serendipity.

Chesley McLaren is a well-known fashion illustrator, having worked for Neiman Marcus, Bendel's, Bergdorf Goodman, and other upmarket fashion retailers.

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