Magazine / Culture / Books

Book Club: Clothes and Other Things That Matter Review

Teodora Cozma
Editor-in-Chief
On Oct 9th, 2020

An entertaining memoir written by Alexandra Shulman, the former editor of British Vogue. The book is structured as short trips down the memory lane triggered by different items in her wardrobe, a collection comprising of 556 items.

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Beautiful and easy to read, "Clothes and Other Things That Matter" is a journey through the memories of the author, who jumps through the timeline as she pleases, inspired by different items in her wardrobe. A collection of 556 pieces essential to the writer, trigger the author's reminiscent stories, taking us from her childhood to her successful career and motherhood. The reader can imagine Alexandra Shulman in her dressing room, observing different clothing items, undergarments, beauty products, accessories or jewellery and sharing a story with us about her life and her style.

The book is very female-focused, as a successful woman writes it after leading one of the most well-known magazines in the world. The reader pursues the emotions each piece of clothing arouses, from ambitions and expectations to the author's desires.

"Clothes... and other things that matter is a book not only about clothes but about the way we live our lives. From childhood onwards, the way we dress is a result of our personal history. In a mix of memoir, fashion history and social observation I am writing about the person our clothes allows us to be and sometimes the person they turn us into."

Alexandra Shulman

Each chapter is designed as an individual stand-alone piece, just as each chapter could be a great magazine article. Because there is no timeline and the stories are not connected, it means the book's chapters are easy to follow. The reader does not have to remember details from the previous stories to be able to pick up again the book.

As a reader, you can distinguish the influence of Alexandra’s high fashion industry past, through her style of writing, where the names of prominent designers and historical fashion references fill the stories. Each chapter could make an "it" item from the main character of the story, may it be the little bespoke black dress or the white Manolos.

Clothes

The reader gets some emotions through the realness of the stories which are touching on some concerns of the writer as she experienced them, not being skinny, not fitting the mould and on transition. The book reveals little about our writer compared to an autobiography, and it is not intended as one. For Alexandra, clothes are companions being able to resurrect memories such as her pink jacket from Marni, which has been her companion for more than two decades.

The readers are taken on a journey through the closet, from bikinis and underwear, to tights and slip dresses. And more than just her memories, Alexandra shares with us how those items were part of the social changes and women's liberation. For example, we learn about how tights replaced stockings as part of the women's emancipation. Tights allow women to move freely about their days without the risk of showing the stocking top, which was linked to eroticism. Tights became part of the functional wardrobe of women.

From staple items such as the little black dress to the iconic pieces, worn to important life events, her wardrobe is also her museum. The fabrics and stitches trap the memory of the events, and preserving those gowns means maintaining those precious past moments. 

Things That Matter

Alexandra Shulman talks about clothes, but the question remains if the author also talks about things that matter, not only to her but to the readers? The writer expands on fashion history, how some clothing items have been part of the women's liberation movement, how breaking standards feels and how change can be a positive element in one's life, all by referencing different items in her collection.

Despite being a book about clothes, it does not create a shopping desire for the reader. However, the memoir makes the reader reflect upon their collection of clothes and what those clothes mean to us. The book makes the case of holding on to the items that bring happiness, memories and curate our collections.

We hope we have stirred your interest to discover the memoir “Clothes… and Other Things That Matter” and you will enjoy reading it. If you are passionate about interior design and restoration projects, check the review of Pippa Paton’s “Twenty First Century Cotswold”. Come back for more reviews every month in the book club!

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