The Thoughtful Dresser, By Linda Grant

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The Independent Culture

To rebuff charges of frivolity that an indulgence in fashion often brings, Grant points to the moment that Catherine Hill wound a piece of material around her newly shaved head to disguise the size of her ears as she stood in front of a guard for inspection in Auschwitz. Even in that place, at that time, she was conscious of how she looked.

I think it's quite brave of Grant to use this in her book – linking fashion with the Holocaust won't win her many friends – but she argues persuasively that self-esteem, self-respect and feelings of self-worth are bound up in how we look, and that when someone tries to strip those things from us, it's even more important that we retain some sense of why dress matters.

The power-play between men and women, though – that it's mostly men designing clothes that women wear, for example – is largely ignored here, which is a shame. Grant does, however, concede the importance of stores as nearly all-women areas, when so many other public arenas (the pub, the sports ground, the office) are historically male-dominated.

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