Sunday, October 27, 2019

Weekend Review: Folk Fashion

Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes
 Amy Twigger Holroyd

London: I.B. Tauris, c2017.
256 p.
I got this book via interlibrary loan after I saw it mentioned somewhere else, I can't recall where. But how could I resist a book with this title? 

It's an extension of the author's thesis, so it is quite academic, including lots of references to studies about happiness and well-being, about the philosophy of making and so on. But it's also not academic, talking in normal language, and based on experiential groups of knitters with whom the author started her research into making and remaking and all that it implies and contains.

She also quotes people who most sewists will know, like Jenny from Cashmerette, talking about how making her own clothes changed her relationship to her body. There is also an extensive 18 page bibliography, which is going to keep me busy for months! 

The idea of the book is an exploration of how making changes people and their interaction with the world through the lens of fashion. As Holroyd says, we are all part of the fashion system, like it or not. She defines both "folk" and "fashion" broadly -- folk refers to the amateur maker who does not create for economic gain, but as a personal practice, for themselves or others. Folk makers are slightly to the side of the high street -- still making clothes (and she does look into the fallacy that all homemade clothes are de facto sustainable) but outside the limited constructs that retailers allow us. And fashion is all clothing, all habits of dressing. She posits a wide fashion commons which represents all the clothing traditions available to everyone, and which retailers have fenced off, making limited options available. Makers are thus revolutionary, opening up the commons to all.

It's a fascinating read! While much of the book does talk about knitting and remaking and mending sweaters and such, there is an awful lot about sewing as well, and about the whole resurgence of garment making in the 21st century. I think anyone already involved will be intrigued by this book. 

The final chapter is also great, as it lays out a ten point strategy for supporting and encouraging folk fashion makers -- not only in an individual way, but a larger systemic way too, that people can get behind even if they aren't yet makers themselves. Like someone else who reviewed this on Goodreads mentions, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to read the list until you've read the book so like her, I'm not sharing the list here! There is a reason it's the last chapter of the book.

If you can find this title, and have an interest in the sociological and yes, political, impact of the growth of our making community, you will enjoy reading it too. I'm sure of it. And then keep going with the bibliography, and you'll never run out of things to read. A+.


  1. Sounds a fascinating read!! Not available in library here and a bit expensive at the moment. I will put it on my 'wish' list as I love this type of read. Thank you for reviewing it.

    1. It was fascinating -- lots about knitting, which I don't really follow, but otherwise great stuff. And so much to follow up on!

  2. Oh my gosh, love the phrase "folk fashion maker" this term rings true to me more than calling myself a seamstress, sewer, etc. I checked my local library, also not found here and no room in the budget to buy a copy. Hopefully, this book and I will cross paths.

    1. I hope so too! I got it from a university library thanks to interlibrary loan so that might be a route you could check out too.


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