Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Book review: It's So You

Subtitled '35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion & Style', this is a wonderful collection of essays and recollections on the subject of clothes and make-up.  "Fashion is self-expression; Fashion is identity; Fashion is feminist," declares the blurb. 

Edited by Michelle Tea (who I have such a girl crush on: check out her regular column on xojane about her quest to become inseminated[1]), it features thirty six women – mainly writers but also ‘model/mechanic’ Jenny Shimizu and musician Kim Gordon, of Sonic Youth fame - musing on the often thorny topic of how clothes and make-up contribute to women's personal identity and expression of self.

Tea is a San Francisco-dwelling writer and that fact is reflected in the range of contributors, who tend towards the alternative.  But beyond that limit, the book features a wide range of voices, experiences and ages.  I particularly enjoyed Diane di Prima's (b.1934) essay Ideas of Fashion from the Great Depression to Today

A couple of other favourites were Felicia Luna Lemus' S.W.A.K. - a wonderful 9 page rumination on red lipstick, taking in personal reminisence, lesbian politics, Aztec history and more besides - and A Torrid Affair by Cookie Woolner, who writes, "The mainstream fashion and beauty industries exist to keep us alienated from our bodies and desires, in a constant cycle of consumption and false expectations.  Fashion should be about joy and expression, not fear and loathing - loving and truly inhabiting our bodies, not hiding from them."  It had me nodding along frantically.

I loved this book, which got me reflecting on the style choices I have made over the years (and made me excited about trying out red lipstick for the first time in my life: turns out it looks great, who knew?).  Be prepared for it to change the way you perceive the contents of your wardrobe and your make-up bag.

[1] A word which I always mix up with ‘exterminated’, bringing to mind images of Daleks with turkey basters.


  1. Ooh, I've just added this to my wishlist - it sounds great!

  2. I really loved it. Let me know what you think!