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  • Published: 1 October 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529110678
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $30.00


The Secret Life of Clothes

Shahidha Bari explores one of our most intense, but often secret relationships: with our clothes. Dressed is an evocative, ingenious and daringly original exploration of the hidden links between what we wear and who we are.

'A sensual and intellectual pleasure from start to finish' - Deborah Levy

We are all dressed. But how often do we pause to think about the place of our clothes in our lives? What unconscious thoughts do we express when we dress every day? Can memories, meaning and ideas be wrapped up in a winter coat?

These are the questions that interest Shahidha Bari, as she explores the secret language of our clothes. Ranging freely through literature, art, film and philosophy, Dressed tracks the hidden power of clothes in our culture and our daily lives. From the depredations of violence and ageing to our longing for freedom, love and privacy, from the objectification of women to the crisis of masculinity, each garment exposes a fresh dilemma. Item by item, the story of ourselves unravels.

Evocative, enlightening and dazzlingly original, Dressed is not just about clothes as objects of fashion or as a means of self-expression. This is a book about the deepest philosophical questions of who we are, how we see ourselves and how we dress to face the world.

  • Published: 1 October 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529110678
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $30.00

About the author

Shahidha Bari

Shahidha Bari is a writer, academic and broadcaster working in the fields of literature, philosophy and art. Born in 1980, she studied at Cambridge and Cornell. She was one of the first ever BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers (2011) and a winner of the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism (2015). She teaches cultural theory at the University of London and is a Fellow of the Forum for Philosophy at the LSE. She writes for the Financial Times, Guardian and Frieze among other newspapers and journals. She features frequently on BBC Radio 4, and presents BBC Radio 3’s Arts and Ideas programme Free Thinking. She lives in London.

Praise for Dressed

A fascinating cultural exploration of the layers of meaning inherent in the ways we dress ourselves, from Madonna's denim jacket and the paintings of Titian to Cary Grant's tailoring. If you think choosing what to wear is essentially a trivial activity, read this and you'll soon clothe your thoughts entirely differently.

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller, Editor's Choice

[There are] many delectable facts waiting to be discovered in Shahidha Bari's Dressed. Dressed is irresistible when Bari riffs with extraordinary breadth and depth on the cultural meanings of the items she describes. I put Dressed down having been dazzled by Bari's learning and insights... In the end, Dressed is an argument for taking apparently frivolous things seriously... More than this, though, Bari communicates the joy and powerful sense of interconnected humanity clothes can bring."

Lucy Moore, Literary Review

[A] clever, subtle book. Although [Bari's] writing is critically informed.her tone is insistently personal, intimate even. Between her main chapters she drops in lyrical accounts of her own encounters with specific items of clothing. Bari wants us to think not so much about what clothes say as how they make us feel.

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

Dressed is a feast of a book, a supreme example of the new kind of essay - exploratory, reflective, full of the personal energy of Shahidha Bari herself and also her wide knowledge.

Marina Warner

In Dressed Shahidha Bari offers up lively, entertaining and provocative readings of clothes in our daily lives and in culture more widely... Drawing on an impressive range of materials, Bari includes novels, short stories, fairy tales, films, photography and more in her analysis... Bari tells us throughout Dressed, we should look to embrace our personal style and give dress the attention it deserves.

Helen Saunders, Times Literary Supplement

Bari is attuned to how clothes feel, sound and smell, as well as how they look. [she] thinks collectively and in more sensorially rich ways about our imbrication with objects and with one another's lives.

Lisa Cohen, London Review of Books

Bari's investigation into how we construct our selves, individually and collectively, is a sensual and intellectual pleasure from start to finish.

Deborah Levy

A deeply original, compelling thinker and a brilliant writer. Dressed is the finest philosophy of clothes since Tomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus in 1834. Bari's writing is limpidly clear, informed by a rich literary knowledge, theoretically and historically informed, sensuous and deeply textured, like a piece of luxurious fabric. It is also funny. But make no mistake: this is a work of philosophy. It just happens to be about clothes.

Simon Critchley

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