Welcome to the latest installment of “Five words from …” our series which highlights interesting words from interesting books!
Worn: A People’s History of Clothing, by Sofi Thanhauser, is an eye-opening book about dress through the lens of fiber types, covering everything from sheep breeding to labor organizing to the globalization of clothing manufacture.
“Women accused of being scolds were paraded in the streets wearing a new device called a “branks,” an iron muzzle that depressed the tongue.”
If you can’t visualize it, they look like this.
“Byssus is the filament extruded by a mollusk that, when properly processed, can then be spun and woven into a sea silk the color of gold.”
Read about Chiara Vigo, the last “master of byssus”.
“One relatively new coinage for the very old concept of making cloth close to home is the “fibershed.” Just as watershed is an area of land that drains rainwater or snow into one stream, lake, or wetland, a fibershed is a geographically circumscribed region in which fiber producers an processors can join their products, skills, and expertise to produce cloth.”
“What the workers thought were “deer hair” were really the kemp hairs, the outer layer of the fleeces of wild sheep, typical of the fleeces of primitive domestic sheep.”
The word ‘kemp’ is related to an Old Norse word meaning ‘beard’ or even ‘whisker of a cat’.
“The cotton was combed into a loose thick tube of what is called “sliver,” analogous to wool “roving,” which was piped into the next room where it fell into a row of yellow barrels and coiled itself neatly there, ready to be strung on the plying machine.”
Bonus: Find pongee, smock, grommet, rebozo and 74 other fashion words on the Fashion for Poets list.
Got a book you’d like to see given the “five words from” treatment? Nominate it through this form, or email us!