From Publishers Weekly
Having written a family memoir (American Daughter
) and a study of women in screwball comedy (The Runaway Bride
), Kendall now retells her own life—from the perspective of her omniscient wardrobe. Soundless and mute, but extremely expressive, the wardrobe calls the author B, for body: I am B.'s wardrobe, her ever-evolving second-skin. Wardrobe opens by remembering a pair of red corduroy overalls B. loved as a toddler and continues with descriptions of B.'s Midwestern-girlhood clothes, followed by the outfits B. chose when she left home for Radcliffe. Finally, B. comes to know her place in the world and breaks through into self-confident dressing. Women of a certain age will recognize B.'s brand names (Lanz, Marimekko, Charivari) and styles (saddle shoes, bell bottoms, ponchos). Wardrobe's musings reveal how changing attitudes toward women's roles (needing makeup and heels to use the Harvard Library, the shunning of seductive clothing in feminist circles) kept women's closets bulging with outfits, while its asides on fashion history are often quite insightful. Still, this first-person narration by a collection of clothing can be annoying and affected. Ilene Beckerman's Love, Loss, and What I Wore
, with its sparer prose and fetching illustrations, is a more successful memoir-through-clothing. (May)
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"This is a book to devour with great pleasure, as it brings back our own reactions to youth's wardrobe: saddle shoe lust and, for me, in Brooklyn rather than in the Midwest, a decade earlier, bobby socks and penny loafers. But the passion is the same in every period: no one has gotten at the intense importance of these issues in the feminine bildungsroman. Kendall has given us something wonderful."
--Linda Nochlin, author of Bather, Bodies, Beauty
"A writer of deep and delicious gifts, Elizabeth Kendall now gives us a subtle, original riff on the clothes we wear. Clothes may not make the man or woman, but they certainly make this book. It is at once whimsical and profound."
--Catharine Stimpson, University Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York University