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Fashioning Character

Style, Performance, and Identity in Contemporary American Literature
Lauren S. Cardon

BUY Cloth · 302 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813945880 · $115.00 · Apr 2021
BUY Paper · 302 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813945897 · $49.50 · Apr 2021
BUY Ebook · 302 pp. · ISBN 9780813945903 · $37.50 · Apr 2021

It’s often said that we are what we wear. Tracing an American trajectory in fashion, Lauren Cardon shows how we become what we wear. Over the twentieth century, the American fashion industry diverged from its roots in Paris, expanding and attempting to reach as many consumers as possible. Fashion became a tool for social mobility. During the late twentieth century, the fashion industry offered something even more valuable to its consumers: the opportunity to explore and perform. The works Cardon examines—by Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, and Aleshia Brevard, among others—illustrate how American fashion, with its array of possibilities, has offered a vehicle for curating public personas. Characters explore a host of identities as fashion allows them to deepen their relationships with ethnic or cultural identity, to reject the social codes associated with economic privilege, or to forge connections with family and community. These temporary transformations, or performances, show that identity is a process constantly negotiated and questioned, never completely fixed.


Fashioning Character breaks new ground in its examination of canonical texts by both male, female, and nonbinary writers in contemporary American literature. A thoughtful exploration of fashion’s capacity for self-fashioning and negotiations of gender, sexuality, and nationalism.

Stephanie Harzewski, University of New Hampshire · Chick Lit and Postfeminism

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