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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A finely spun history of clothes and where they come from.

Linen, cotton, silk, synthetics, wool: through the stories of these five fabrics, Sofi Thanhauser illuminates the world we inhabit in a startling new way, travelling from China to Cumbria to reveal the craft, labour and industry that create the clothes we wear.

From the women who transformed stalks of flax into linen to clothe their families in 19th-century New England to those who earn their dowries in the cotton-spinning factories of South India today, this book traces the origins of garment making through time and around the world. Exploring the social, economic and environmental impact of our most personal possessions, Worn looks beyond care labels to show how clothes reveal the truth about what we really care about.

©2022 Sofi Thanhauser (P)2022 Penguin Audio

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What listeners say about Worn

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  • Overall
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Truly fantastic book

I absolutely loved this book. Organised by fibre, it provides a detailed look at the fabrics humans have used for 30,000 years, how they have changed, and the ways in which their exploitation has shaped colonial empires, the industrial revolution and the modern world. A big picture book with interesting, thought provoking detail, personal stories from around the world, and on the ground research into the clothing industry today.

I have been recommending this book to everyone I meet, and one one asked me what it was about. “Just clothes? Fashion?”

I explained it is about so much more than that. It is about capitalism and labour history and colonialism and the environment. It is about how we got here - the systems that surround and contain us and determine you can buy a shirt for £6 that someone was barely paid to make in dangerous conditions, out of fabric that was constructed from oil, which will shed microplastics and pollute the water we drink and the fish we eat and will eventually end up in a landfill in someone else’s back yard. That enables continued dangerous working conditions that cost the lives and health of workers producing viscose, and happily hides that fact from the consumers who buy clothes made from the fabric. That profits off of the environmental devastation, neocolonial exploitation and forced labour in the cotton industry.

I’ve read a lot of books in this genre and there are many good ones. Books which trace the history of one particular textile or dye, or chronicle the history of technologies that have enabled the production of modern fabrics, or expose the environmental and human cost of today’s garment industry. This is the first time I have found a book which does all these things, and does them all well. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Not the best narration

Really interesting topic and much of the book is relevant and informative. However, she goes off at a tangent quite a bit and there’s also a lot of self indulgent soul searching. Also the narration is monotonous and sometimes grating.

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in depth and fascinating

Once I'd got used to the narration I was totally sucked in to this all encompassing history of cotton, linen, wool, silk and rayon. Ashocking review of how industrialisation ruins communities, eco systems and lives. And a look at the movement that returns textiles to small producers. I have leant so much. a must-listen if you wear clothes.

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Interesting subject, but dull narration.

An interesting and thought-provoking exploration of the history of different fabrics, and how the production of cloth links with social, cultural and economic movements. Fascinating stuff, and well structured.

The narrator, however, does not match the interesting nature of the subject, monotone and dull - making it hard, in parts, to sustain attention.

I wish I had read this one rather than listened to it.

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loved this book

Thank you, Sofi, for a wonderful and wide ranging study. I enjoyed all of it, but especially loved the section on wool and also the conclusion. Both are particularly informative and inspiring. congratulations on a fantastic, accessible and important read.

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An incredible history of clothing

An amazingly written, intelligent yet accessible account of the history of clothing - its meaning across generations and cultures, and the darker side of garment production. Full also of inspiring stories of courage and with sn ultimately opmistic outlook.

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excellent

everyone who wears clothes should read this book , full of history, political implications and the way forward.