Irreverent, outspoken culture critic Wilson (Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny, 2008, etc.) charts the “discovery of my own fashion evolution” through an American road trip.
Armed with her unique talent for biting observational wizardry, the author embarked on a cross-country walkabout to gain new perspectives on fashion’s impact “with as little an impression as possible going in.” She approached this journey with the same modest naiveté as when perusing uptight Soho and Madison Avenue boutiques to offer an outsider’s perspective for the New York Times “Critical Shopper” column. Before decrypting the unique couture dress codes throughout America’s “belt regions” (Cotton, Rust, Bible, etc.), Wilson offers background on her formative years growing up in the 1970s on a houseboat in the Bay Area, where her artistic appreciation for the punk scene and the “magic of garments” was born. Fitted into her finest black, monotone clothing, Wilson’s first stops included Washington, D.C., where restrictive, formal business wear and “confrontational cleanliness” rules; high-end consignment shops in modestly draped Salt Lake City; and one of the author’s funniest inspections (aside from a piece relentlessly dehumanizing Los Angeles culture): the mini-monokini versus moneyed white-jeaned aesthetic of Miami Beach, where “the only good iguana is a pink belt.” Midway through, Wilson digresses to address the 2009 fiasco surrounding a painfully honest yet offensively inciting column she wrote criticizing a new J.C. Penney flagship store for manufacturing polyester clothing “five times larger than any large you’ve ever seen.” The article’s backlash seemingly fueled her anxiety about traipsing further into Midwestern states like Iowa and camouflage-heavy Kansas. Ultimately, there’s an undeniable sense that little falling outside of Wilson’s own gothic “crypto-sadist” uniform is deemed passable, with the remaining scraps merely fashion roadkill. Nevertheless, her deliciously snarky ode to American fashion is unceasingly entertaining.
Prime sartorial satire for fashionistas aching for a dose of comic relief. Few write as bitingly about pop culture as Wilson.