The Impact and Resonance of White Clothing
Distributed for Reaktion Books
The Impact and Resonance of White Clothing
From bridal gowns and White Parties to shrouds, an illuminating look at the power of our palest apparel.
Pazazz examines the complex meanings of white clothing throughout history. Delicate and impractical, white cloth in the past was difficult to obtain, as well as to keep clean. It is a symbol of purity but also of class superiority, privilege, and the display of leisure. It represents the menace of the Ku Klux Klan, but also the transition of a bride to the married state. It can be the appropriate dress for mourning and shrouds. White lace is ethereal; straitjackets are tough stuff. White clothing has been a marker of innocence and simplicity for women, but also of calculated, high-maintenance fashion. And for men, white can be evidence of power. But for many, white is a startling absence of color, the epitome of elegance. No matter how you view this lightest of hues and its place in your wardrobe, Pazazz sheds a bright white light on the complex nature of fair fashion.
224 pages | 10 color plates, 65 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 | © 2023
Sociology: Social History
"When it comes to clothes, white can come laden with meaning, from the authority of a doctor’s coat to the innocence of a debutante’s glove. . . . Onetime Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said pazazz evoked ‘the spirit and glamour of fashion.’ Edwards borrows the term—and its unorthodox spelling—for her study of the ‘peculiar allure’ of white garments. White clothes span life from a newborn’s onesie to a mummy’s linen wrappings. Edwards offers a tour d’horizon of white raiment through the ages."
Brenda Cronin | Wall Street Journal
"From bridal wear to the Ku Klux Klan, an exploration of the complex meanings of white clothing throughout history; sometimes a symbol of purity but also of class superiority, privilege and the display of leisure."
"Edwards points out that white pulls in every direction, at times modest and virginal, resonant of the convent, at others sumptuous and conspicuous, conveying the ‘pazazz’ of her title. There is a timeless quality to white that puts it beyond fashion. Edwards writes with elegance and authority."
"Open any Western wardrobe today and you'll likely see more black than white, yet white clothing can have great cultural importance. . . . Edwards tells . . . about the impact and resonance of white clothing."
Sunday Post, Scotland
"Pazazz marvels at the varied uses and meanings of white clothing. Edwards investigates how one complex ‘non-color’ can miraculously signify so much at once. White is what our most tender garments—nightwear and underwear—are traditionally fashioned from, and sections in Pazazz pertaining to such apparel have an almost breathtaking intimacy. Edwards approaches her vast subject like a maverick curator, unafraid to situate widely different exhibits next to each other."
“Edwards explores the history of white clothing and just what it means to the various cultures of the world. Edwards explores why white has been seen as a color of prestige. The book is rich in detail and sumptuous pictures—including a selection of color photos within the middle of the book—to further enhance the text itself. From art to fashion, to the care of priests and aristocracy, as well as wife beaters and sport, white clothing is something that has penetrated all of culture. This is an interesting book that will doubtlessly make readers thankful for the benefits of modern washing machines and bleach pens. There might just be some truth to the notion that clothes make the man after all. I defy anyone who reads this to not put perhaps just a little bit more thought into what they wear from day to day.”
"An enjoyable addition to the spate of color-centric books published in recent years. It is all the better for dealing with not just the symbolically charged meanings of this (non)color, but also its grimy physical realities. This is a book about the ‘bodily experience of wearing white,’ whether the wearer is a girl receiving her first communion, an Austen heroine returning home with mud on her hem, or a pirouetting Rudolf Nureyev in a clinging white leotard slowly greying with sweat. To be clad in white is to experience both its radiance and its vulnerabilities, its authoritative power and its ability to shame."
"Edwards, a London-based freelance writer (who has previously written about the significance of buttons), considers the complex meaning of white clothing throughout history. Delicate and impractical, in the past white cloth was difficult to obtain and maintain, so it became a symbol of purity, but also of class superiority, privilege and conspicuous leisure. Dip into it during peak wedding season for the brainy but accessible deconstruction of bridal gowns."
"A truly fascinating, even radiant book: a long-needed history of the no-color—and super-color—that can clothe us in virtue, cleanness, light. Edwards illuminates the ambiguity of this color of life and death, its difficult practicalities, and its luxuries and delights."
John Harvey, author of "The Story of Black"
"Edwards looks beyond white as the color of purity and virtuous cleanliness to reveal a deeper and sometimes sinister history of white clothing as a tool for moral and social distinction. From the supernatural to the authoritative, and from cradle to grave, white clothing enshrouds human life."
Serena Dyer, lecturer in history of design and material culture, De Montfort University, and author of "Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century"
"In these intriguing pages discover the power of white clothing, from the Athenian gods of fashion to Jackie Kennedy’s love for this 'most ceremonial color.'"
Peter McNeil, distinguished professor in design history, University of Technology Sydney
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