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Autobiography of a Wardrobe    by Elizabeth Kendall order for
Autobiography of a Wardrobe
by Elizabeth Kendall
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Lori Waddington

'I am B's wardrobe ... She is My inhabitant, My partner, My Body-My B.' This is the introduction to Autobiography Of A Wardrobe, written by the Wardrobe of author Elizabeth Kendall. This novel, touted as part memoir, part fashion, opens in 1950, with 'five-year-old B. in a daffodil-yellow pinafore and a white blouse with puffed sleeves.' Back then, 'everything was ironed: collars, sashes, sailor suits.' Things have definitely changed since then; the wrinkled look is what's hot today.

B. remembers as a young girl wearing her first saddle shoe, her first Lanz dress, and her first shorts suit that she wore every day for an entire summer. Sadly for B., these items also bring back the memory of 'the stomach, a hateful subject.' As B. grew, 'she didn't just grow taller, she grew bigger, in the middle.' B.'s stomach stays with her for many years, especially as her full adult figure arrives, 'featuring full hips and small breasts.'

And just as B's body changes, so do her fashion choices. We follow along as B. buys her first 'sand-colored raw silk' dress at Saks Fifth Avenue, and in college, as B. acquires not just one, but two Marimekko dresses. We are with B. when she purchases 'a wool sweater jacket of dark green' that was 'chic yet relaxed, suave yet naive.' Eventually, we arrive in the present, with B. getting old, and having 'grown very fond of the feel of clean cotton.'

For those (such as myself) who are wardrobe impaired, the author has even gone so far as to add a short history of the stores she has frequented in this book, ranging from Marimekko all the way to the Gap. Autobiography Of A Wardrobe is not just about Elizabeth Kendall's wardrobe, it is also about the history of fashion. While at times this novel focused a bit too much on the latter rather than on B. and her wardrobe, I enjoyed getting to know more about the origin of certain styles and how they have changed over the years.

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