(un)Fashion

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Tibor and Maira Kalman's book (un)Fashion is the result of Tibor's desire to "catalog his giddy obsession with mankind's ingenious expression". With only a handful of words and hundreds of photographs of clothing and costumes from around the world, I get something different out of this book every time I pick it up.

The pictures are grouped into high-level categories based on:

  • parts of the body (eyewear, footwear, etc.)

  • type (accessories, underwear, uniforms, body art, etc.)

  • function (garments used to carry other humans, modesty, etc.)

  • context (work, play, death, etc.)
  • The variations within each category, as expressed through different lifestyles and cultures, are fascinating. "Work" includes photos of traditionally-dressed chimney sweeps in France; a Samoan businessman dressed in a shirt, tie and skirt; a Peruvian man carrying what must be a 150-pound fish on his back; and two French cocktail hostesses wearing black leotards and dresses made of translucent tiered serving plates holding tiny cakes. "Body Art" includes a picture of a tribesman from Papua New Guinea wearing traditional face paint across from a photo of a Nigerian soccer fan who has painted his face and chest with his team's colors.

    These and other visual pairings in the book probe questions of what is appropriate to wear, how we place value on clothing and accessories, and why we adorn ourselves. But if you're not in the mood to do any deep thinking, just toss the book on your coffee table and enjoy the beautiful pictures.

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