‘Worn Stories’ Is a Charming Book About Clothes and Meaning


It’s interesting — one thing that the internet has been good for is a sort of “single-serving” hit of an emotion, or a feeling, capturing a funny little moment in time. That style flourishes on Tumblr, for better or worse, with sites like Humans of New York and Last Night’s Reading. Worn Stories, the handsome new book adapted from artist, writer, and editor Emily Spivack’s reliably smart blog of the same name, does come from that single-serving blog style, where a garment is photographed on a stark white background and a story about its origin and meaning sits beside it, but it’s the very simplicity of the concept that makes it sing.

There’s a lot of high-profile names in Worn Stories, New York scenester types, artists, writers, actors, and regular joes, too — Frances Ha‘s Greta Gerwig has a button-down shirt from a lost love, The New York Times’ Jenna Worthman has a shirt that’s made up of sequins and San Francisco, and writer Ariel Shrag (we loved this summer’s Adam) and filmmaker Matt Wolf have a magical, shared story about one perfectly-faded Puma T-shirt. And yet even though there’s a lot of “names” in the book, the “style” of photographing the piece of clothing out of context, just on a hanger, with the words sitting next to it, takes fashion, clothes, and the meaning loaded within into another place.

Writing devoted to fashion can, despite the best intentions, devolve into loaded, aspirational lies. Spivack’s view of fashion feels much more charming and intimate. By taking the bodies away from the clothes, you, the reader, have the freedom to imagine the life of that garment, to put on Gerwig’s oversized men’s button-down shirt in a hippie stage camp in Vermont, or to take The New York Times‘ David Carr’s “New York” shirt with upside-down letters (picked up on Canal Street) out for a spin.

Worn Stories is small and personal, filled with lots of people talking about a lot of different journeys regarding clothes, but the net result is that you, the reader, start thinking about the roles that garments have played in your life. Where’s the dress that you got that kiss in? What about those shoes with the hole worn through on the toe? What role are clothes playing when we’re becoming the people that we’re meant to be? This short, lovely book doesn’t offer the answers, but it raises the right questions.