Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear

By Lucy Adling­ton

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

(Ran­dom House Books, 454 pages, £16.99) This book, as the au­thor states, sets out to tell the “ex­tra­or­di­nary sto­ries of our most or­di­nary pos­ses­sions”, namely the cloth­ing we put on and wear ev­ery day. Each chap­ter cov­ers an area of cloth­ing in­clud­ing trousers, pants, coats, knitwear and swimwear. Their his­tory is traced through a col­lec­tion of anec­dotes and in­sights, which Adling­ton al­ways draws to a con­clu­sion by dis­cussing how we use that piece of cloth­ing to­day. As she re­marks, cur­rent fash­ion is all about re­duc­ing bulk, not ar­ti­fi­cially cre­at­ing it, as it has been for many pe­ri­ods in the past.

This is a very en­joy­able read and eas­ily y ac­ces­si­ble to any­one with an in­ter­est in th he his­tory of cloth­ing, or his­tory in gen­eral. There is a fo­cus on items some­times glossed ove er in other cos­tume his­to­ries – for in­stance, soc cks and knitwear. Us­ing some oral tes­ti­monie es, Adling­ton tries to get un­der the skin of how peo­ple feel about their cloth­ing and new fash­ions. Snip­pets about how our lan­guage has been in­flu­enced by cloth­ing g are scat­tered through­out. ‘Blue stock­ing’, for ex­am­ple, was used as a deroga­tory term for women from the 1750s; ‘bom­bast’ was a stuff­ing of saw­dust and horse­hair used to give a full belly to dou­blets for the 16th- and 17th-cen­tury man lead­ing to the term bom­bas­tic; ‘ liv­ing on a shoe­string’ came about as shoshoestrings were quite flimsy.

The fo­cus is nat­u­rally on the last 2200 years al­though items are traced baack fur­ther where pos­si­ble in­clud­ing Vi­ik­ing and Clas­si­cal ex­am­ples.

More il­lus­tra­tions, as this is re­ally a vi­su­ual sub­ject, would have been nice but theree are some colour plates and more nu­meer­ous black-and-white im­ages. It is an en­ter­taain­ing ad­di­tion to gen­eral his­to­ries of cloth­cloth­ing.

Ali­son To­plis writes on the his­tory of cloth­ing

and is a hon­orary fel­low at the Univer­sity

of Wolver­hamp­ton

Lucy Adling­ton has writ­ten an overview of the his­tory of cloth­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.