Winner of the 2021 Pen Ackerley Prize
WINNER OF THE 2021 PEN ACKERLEY PRIZE
"As skillful and oblique in its structure as the precious gowns she describes." -Rebecca Mead, New Yorker, "Best Books of the Year"
An expert and intimate exploration of a life in clothes: their memories and stories, enchantments and spells.
A linen sheet, smooth with age. A box of buttons, mother-of-pearl and plastic, metal and glass, rattling and untethered. A hundred-year-old pin, forgotten in a hem. Fragile silks and fugitive dyes, fans and crinolines, and the faint mark on leather from a buckle now lost.
Claire Wilcox has worked as a curator in Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum for most of her working life. Down cool, dark corridors and in quiet store rooms, she and her colleagues care for, catalogue and conserve clothes centuries old, the inscrutable remnants of lives long lost to history; the commonplace or remarkable things that survive the bodies they once encircled or adorned.
In Patch Work, Wilcox deftly stitches together her dedicated study of fashion with the story of her own life lived in and through clothes. From her mother's black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in luminous prose the spellbinding power of the things we wear: their stories, their secrets, their power to transform and disguise and acts as portals to our pasts; the ways in which they measure out our lives, our gains and losses, and the ways we use them to write our stories.
About this Author
Claire Wilcox has been Senior Curator of Fashion at the V&A since 2004, where she has curated exhibitions including The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, and Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, and is Professor in Fashion Curation at the London College of Fashion. She instigated Fashion in Motion (live catwalk events in the Museum) in 1999. She is on the editorial board of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture. She lives in London.
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