Interview: Author Emily Spivack on Mindful Dressing
Ordinary and extraordinary stories about clothes come together in Emily Spivack’s recent bestseller, “Worn Stories.” Spivack began this project years ago, starting from her own memoirs about a pair of 17-year-old flip flops to collecting sartorial anecdotes from family, friends and eventually everyone on the Internet. “The clothes that protect us, that make us laugh, that serve as a uniform, that help us assert our identity or aspirations, that we wear to remember someone – in all of these are encoded the stories of our lives,” Spivack writes in Worn Stories. Here, the author and editor speaks with Zady about what mindful dressing means to her.
Emily, how did you choose which stories to include in your book?
It was important for me to have a diversity of voices. That was my main criterion when I was reaching out to people to share their stories. You’ll read firsthand accounts from writers, musicians, actors, athletes, restaurateurs…
Is there anyone you’d love to hear from who didn’t contributed a story?
Iris Apfel! I just watched the documentary on her and she is such an incredible person. I’ve met and spoken with her, but, for a number of reasons, we weren’t able to find time to do a story.
Have these stories changed your way of relating to your own clothes?
I buy less stuff now. And when people compliment or ask me about what I’m wearing, I tell them the story behind it instead of the label or where I bought it. That being said, working on this book has really reinforced what my clothes mean to me.
The New York Times’ fashion blog has described your book as a “handy antidote to “fast fashion.”” Is raising awareness about fast fashion an aim of Worn Stories?
While you won’t find the word “sustainability” mentioned in the book, I do hope that people will come away more thoughtful about how they consume, what they consume and why they consume. My approach to fast fashion isn’t overly deliberate or heavy-handed. I prefer to use humor and stories to get people thinking about their relationship to clothing and dress.
You’ve toured the country for your book. Have the responses varied across locales? Any highlights you’d like to share?
People were interested across the board. I’ve done all kinds of events, from artist panel talks to writing workshops. The dinner reading I conducted at the Red Rooster with Marcus Samuelsson, Dapper Dan and [Orange is the New Black author] Piper Kerman was really special. Another time, for a workshop I ran at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, a woman walked in wearing the most gorgeous green satin ball gown under her coat – she was wearing her story.
What’s your favorite book on clothes?
Currently, Album by Eline Mugaas and Elise Storsveen. It’s a collection of the first ten issues of Album magazine. The books I love on clothes are not necessarily about fashion or clothes per se. This one is all images – and all kinds of images.
Do you think living in New York influences how you understand clothes?
What I love about New York is that people wear whatever they want. In the summer especially, people with every kind of body shape and size are just out there wearing what makes them feel good. If I see someone wearing an amazing outfit, I will walk up and tell her that she looks great. I think people take more risks in New York than in, say, smaller cities and towns.