FOR a few fascinating years I was a fashion journalist and became used to receiving backhanded compliments from male colleagues: you 're so well read, educated in politics and philosophy, how can you be interested in this stuff?
It was the 1980s, the era of Japanese design, power dressing and supermodels with athletic figures and challenging stares: an empowering moment for women, soon after legislation that integrated us better into the workplace and just before the backlash so ably documented by Susan Faludi.
An interest in the sociology of fashion was growing, perhaps because of the historically informed conversation of middle-class European fashion titans -- Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani among them -- whose…show more content… She is a former winner of the Orange Prize and a short-listee for the Man Booker, and has written extensively about women 's issues, Israel and the Holocaust: a serious writer, in short.
The book is a meditation on clothing, and femininity, and power, and disempowerment, too, most especially the disempowerment of women in war.
Grant is the grandchild of immigrants who left Eastern Europe for the political freedoms of Britain. From them, by emotional osmosis, she came to understand intimately the importance of appearance in the adjustment of migrants. Unable to be located exactly on the class ladder by means of their accent, for example, or the school they attended, they could remake themselves and their offspring afresh in their new land.
Even when her mother was subsiding into dementia at the end of her life, a shopping expedition for clothes could revive her. Her "last full, coherent, grammatically intact message", Grant writes, was uttered to her sister. "I like your earrings," their mother said.
The Thoughtful Dresser is full of such poignancies, as well as stylish apercus. The author is lively company, a persuasive writer, a woman 's woman who can hold several thoughts, shading from the frivolous to the sombre, in her mind at once.
Threading through it is a powerful motif, elaborated over several scattered chapters: the life and thoughts of a teenage survivor of Auschwitz, the sole survivor of her family, who matured to become the