Sofi Thanhauser’s Sweeping History of Getting Dressed

January 25, 2022 | 1 book mentioned

At The Guardian, Kathryn Hughes reviews Sofi Thanhauser’s Worn, a wide-ranging exploration of the materials our clothes are made of and how they impact our daily lives and the planet. Thanhauser takes readers on a trip around the world—from the luxurious courts of Louis Quatorze to the original silk route to modern-day textile factories in southern India— shedding light on how clothes were first used to stimulate the economy and conjure illusions of power and prestige, while also revealing the industry’s harsh consequences: environmental destruction and the exploitation of workers. Thanhauser also illuminates small groups of tailors around the world who utilize ancestral and ethical methods for making what we wear.

Worn,” Hughes writes, “consists of much more than a string of entertaining anecdotes about people raiding the dressing-up box and embarrassing themselves in the process. Its starting point is the terrible state of our current clothing industry, which, as Thanhauser describes it, exists in a nightmare wasteland of overproduction, toxic waste, choked rivers, child labour and collapsing factories. Following five threads—linen, cotton, silk, rayon and wool—she sets out to chart a deft course through material history, arguing that “there is scarcely a part of the human experience, historic or current, that the story of clothes does not touch.”

is an assistant editor at The Millions. She is a graduate of the Inkluded Academy 2021, a summer publishing course for graduates from BIPOC communities, and works as a freelance writer and uploading specialist.

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