Swapping Outfits and Ideas at the Women In Clothes Book Launch

A line of ladies (and a few men) snaked its way down Queen Street last night, and as I walked by it clutching a Value Village bag of my old clothes, I immediately felt nervous: that cool bitch in the cape does not want your old maxi skirt, Mon. 

The book launch for the fantastic Women In Clothes, a compelling and unique collection of photos, stories, interviews and essays about how and why and what we wear, had really brought out a well-dressed crowd. Gravity Pope was almost claustrophobically full of people, in caftans and flowy floral pants and elbow-length leather gloves and capes, a lot of capes are happening right now.

The launch, which featured a talk with the book’s creators Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, was also a clothing swap, and that shit got REAL. I brought my meagre offerings and immediately set to work jostling the dozens of well-dressed women crammed into Gravity Pope’s basement room to browse the wares. It was hot, sweaty, and serious. Bitches be free-shoppin’.

In an enlightening reminder that the clothes we don’t wear say something about us too, swappers were encouraged to affix explanatory tags to their castoffs. Some shared stories of triumphant moments—on a tiny sequined swath: “This is a top! I wore it as a skirt last time I was onstage,” “Wore this to ‘fuck you’ drinks with my ex.” Others shared reasons they were letting things go: “I never felt slutty enough for this dress;” “The button popped off and my self esteem never recovered. :(” I walked away with a new-to-me army jacket, crocheted vest (I took a risk), and a “1970s Pennington Circle Skirt. Sometimes this skirt goes great with a brown leather jacket and thin knit socks, it’s never found the schoolgirl blouse to match, though.”

My friend Zoe found a tight, well-worn black American Apparel number with the enigmatic tag: “Wore this in a B-movie that shall not be named,” (My money is on 2003 Jessica Alba dance vehicle Honey) and another found what may literally be the perfect trench coat. Isabel Slone of Double Dot mag had the best find, IMO. A great pair of high-waisted tweed (or were they twill?) shorts, with the note “I made these shorts for a New Year’s Eve Party in 1989.” I mean.

The night of conversation in, about, and around clothes got me so revved up I went home and devoured the first 50 of this 515 page behemoth. I have mixed feelings but lots of thoughts, and I’m ready to wrap myself up in something warm and nerdy—very me—and finish the rest.

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