An exploration of a life in clothes: their memories and stories, enchantments and spells. From her mother's black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds the spellbinding power of the things we wear.
In this remarkable self-portrait, fashion curator Claire Wilcox has set out mementoes of her life like objects in an exhibition. Short chapters, some only half a page, are displayed like treasures in a cabinet of curiosities, following no chronological order ... Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes juxtaposes the author’s reflections on garments and precious fabrics with glimpses of family, illness, death, motherhood, hair, a lost child, the destruction wrought by moths (the curse of the Romans, who wore wool) and even a leaky roof. The result is magical ...Her spellbinding memoir is like a cherished book of poetry, one to be dipped into over and again.
Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, has devoted her professional life to the care, protection, and exhibition of objects: a silk-lined wallet, delicately hand-stitched linen, fragile lace garments resplendent with spangles and gilt. In a captivating memoir illustrated with photographs of cherished objects, the author describes, in radiant, sensuous prose, her often painstaking tasks and her development as a curator, which began with an entry-level part-time position ... Although these glimpses backstage at the museum are fascinating, equally so are Wilcox’s evocative recollections of childhood, marriage, her parents’ deaths, and motherhood to three children, including a daughter who suffered a frightening illness and a son who died very young. A finely crafted memoir of luminous vignettes.
One of the ingenious aspects of Claire Wilcox’s memoir is the way in which she stitches an entire book of patches—scraps and pieces of both her own biography and the longer swathes of history—to yield a narrative arresting in its strength and elegance ... memoir, an exquisite blend of the private and the public ... Part of the wisdom of her approach here is that she makes those missing pieces not a limitation but an asset...Wilcox’s book itself feels not unlike a visit to a museum, that sensation of gradually building one’s understanding by way of meditative wandering from room to room...But though her method of composition consists of fragments and vignettes, the totality adds up. Really, every entry is a flash nonfiction, a complete and self-contained memoir or essay. But each one gains impact, too, by Wilcox’s careful placement of her chunks of text in succession, her putting them in thoughtful juxtaposition and conversation with the others around them ... Her tone is far from still or staid as some museums (no offense) can be, crackling instead with life and vibrancy, like the best museums, which remind visitors not only of the objects they contain but also of the people who once made and used those objects ... she leaves her readers astonished at the subtlety and care with which she has laid bare the pages of her own existence.