Adult · Nonfiction

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack


Hardcover, 160 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Princeton Architectural Press
Source: ARC from publisher

Everyone has a memoir in miniature in at least one piece of clothing. In Worn Stories, Emily Spivack has collected over sixty of these clothing-inspired narratives from cultural figures and talented storytellers. First-person accounts range from the everyday to the extraordinary, such as artist Marina Abramovic on the boots she wore to walk the Great Wall of China; musician Rosanne Cash on the purple shirt that belonged to her father; and fashion designer Cynthia Rowley on the Girl Scout sash that informed her business acumen. Other contributors include Greta Gerwig, Heidi Julavits, John Hodgman, Brandi Chastain, Marcus Samuelsson, Piper Kerman, Maira Kalman, Sasha Frere-Jones, Simon Doonan, Albert Maysles, Susan Orlean, Andy Spade, Paola Antonelli, David Carr, Andrew Kuo, and more. By turns funny, tragic, poignant, and celebratory, Worn Stories offers a revealing look at the clothes that protect us, serve as a uniform, assert our identity, or bring back the past—clothes that are encoded with the stories of our lives.



Worn Stories proved to be a mixed bag of tricks. Edited by Emily Spivack, the slim volume contains a picture of a piece of clothing accompanied by a page or two of writing by the person to whom the article of clothing belongs to. In the write up, the owner of the piece of clothing talks about the meaning the specific piece of clothing has or had for him/her. There are some pieces in this volume that are poignant, especially those pieces that recount how the clothing is their connection to a parent or anyone who is no longer in the world. There are other pieces that are just plain funny – I remember the one about the lady whose boss buys her a dress to wear to a fancy dinner and in which she has nothing but bad luck. And then there are those pieces that seem more an extension of the person’s ego than an actual reflection of the meaning of importance a particular piece of clothing or accessory has for the person, for example, Tito.

Spivack includes in the collection people from all works of life though with a necessary bias towards people who work or used to work in the entertainment industry. The concept is interesting and asks questions such as how much of a person’s identity comes from the clothes we wear. The book, perhaps unintentionally, also takes a look at how people interact with things, aka the thing theory about which I know very little about but my friend Yash has done her thesis on it and I have heard enough to be interested in it. Anyway, convoluted sentence.

Do I recommend this to you? I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping to but it did provide some comic relief at certain points and it did make me think at others. So yes, check this out but I would library it rather than purchase it.


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