Posts Tagged ‘Woolf and fashion’

A few recent Woolf sightings:

  • A history project in San Francisco’s gay district that honors Virginia Woolf. The last bronze plaque of the 20 in the Rainbow Honor Walk will memorialize Woolf as a deceased person in the LGBT community who left a lasting legacy. Author Armistead Maupin will dedicate her plaque, which will be located near the Twin Peaks bar at the corner of Castro and 17th streets.
  • An open letter to Woolf: To the Late Virginia Woolf by Erin Lin published Aug. 29, 2014. Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.56.58 AM
  • Book recommendations from a Berkeley-based bookstore with a Woolf-related name, Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts. The shop offers Mrs. Dalloway’s Better Than a Book Club Selections and the Welcome to Clarissa’s Bookshelf young adult blog.
  • Dr. Claire Nicholson’s exploration of  Woolf’s often ambivalent relationship with clothes and fashion as part of the National Portrait gallery’s exhibit on Virginia Woolf. The Luncthtime Lecture, Virginia Woolf: A Woman of Fashion?, is free and will be held Sept. 4 at 1:15 p.m. at the NPG.
  • Insurrections of the Mind, coming Sept. 16 from Harper Perennial, collects 70 essays from the influential The New Republic magazine that includes one from Woolf.
  • A review of the documentary Secrets from the Asylum that mentions Laura Stephen, Woolf’s half-sister.
  • Orlando was sold out in Akron, Ohio.
  • Woolf broke a grammar rule regarding accusative predicates.
  • This list of “Six Best Books” includes Maggie Gee’s Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
  • What do we see when we read? A take on Lily Briscoe’s painting in To the Lighthouse — and how we see Woolf’s words and Lily’s painting.

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Jezebel calls out Vice‘s Women in Fiction issue for its distasteful fashion spread that features models reenacting the suicides of famoussuicide fashion female writers.

In the photos, the authors — including Virginia Woolf — are styled and posed to depict the times of their deaths. The title of the spread is “Last Words.”


The online Vice article was to appear in this month’s fiction issue of the popular news and culture magazine, which is based in the US. But after an outcry from commentators and mental health groups, the company took the feature offline late yesterday afternoon and issued an apology, according to today’s Independent article.

Perfect storm of criticism

Other writers and bloggers responded disapprovingly as well. And the heavies weighed in with a full storm of criticism:

Thanks to Kaylee Baucom, English professor at the College of Southern Nevada for alerting Blogging Woolf to the original Woolf sighting.

A class on famous last words

In a related bit, ABC News reported on a class that analyzed some of history’s most famous last words, including those of Adolph Hitler, Virginia Woolf and Kurt Cobain.

The talk among academics

Finally, here are quotes from the discussion regarding the offending fashion spread and the 2002 film The Hours from the VWoolf Listserv:

“I’m just wondering of those who oppose this, are you equally offended by the portrayal of the same event in The Hours?”

“Apart from VW, the characters in The Hours were fictional, and VW’s death was decades ago, whereas Iris Chang’s family and loved ones probably are still very much processing their grief over her suicide. The image of her was breathtakingly insensitive and offensive to me for that reason.”

“It seems to me that there is a perhaps slight but nonetheless significant difference between the depiction of suicide in *The Hours* (film) and this project insofar as* The Hours *attempted to portray Woolf’s life and (perhaps to a lesser extent) her battle with mental issues before portraying her suicide whereas the Vice Magazine project shows readers only the moment of suicide itself. Although perhaps the Vice spread also contained some information about the authors and their lives? I would argue that neither work did a very good job of portraying mental illness (particularly not when it came to Woolf herself). Unless there was a significant written component to the Vice piece that I’m not aware of, it seems to me that the Vice Magazine project uses suicide as a jumping-off point for an exploration of aesthetics (if I were to be generous) or (if I were to be less generous) as a point of provocation rather than exploring the deep and complex health issues that led these authors to suicide.”

“There is no comparison. The VICE spread is using suicide to sell fashion and in doing so it glamorizes and aestheticizes female bodies in pain. It also takes our attention far away from the amazing work all of these women accomplished. You would think that in an issue announcing itself as covering Women’s Fiction that the work would be their concern. Whatever you want to say about Michael Cunningham and/or the film version of his novel The Hours, he isn’t guilty of promoting suicide to sell shoes and vintage attire!”


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Emma Watson with Burberry's Woolf bag

Emma Watson with Burberry's Woolf bag

Emma Watson, star of the Harry Potter films, is the new “face” of Burberry, and Burberry’s new fall/winter collection is said to be inspired by Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set.

But I don’t think Woolf would have opted to spend £1,095 on the roomy suede tote with embroidered overlay that Burberry has dubbed its “Woolf bag.” 

Nor can I imagine Woolf, who wandered so many miles around London, schlepping along carrying such a huge bag. I picture her using roomy pockets, not a handbag, to carry what she needed. Cast your vote on the issue by taking the poll below.

However, I do wish I had managed to attend the fashion panel, “Bloomsbury and Fashion,” at Woolf and the City.

Here are the intriguing presentations it included:

  • “Clothes Make the Flaneuse” – Catherine Mintler, University of Oklahoma
  • “The Language of Shop Windows in Virginia Woolf’s Novels” – Katarzyna Rybinska, Wroclaw University
  • “Cities of Fashion: Sartorial Topographies in ‘Street Haunting,’ Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves” – Randi Koppen, University of Bergen
  • “Self-Fashioning Identity: Clothing and Subjectivity in Orlando: A Biography” – Ula Lukszo, Stony Brook University. 

Read more about Woolf and fashion.

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