Anne Hollander

Anne Hollander wrote the text for Woman in the Mirror, Richard Avedon’s last collection of photographs. She is now at work on a study of literary clothing.

Insouciance: Wild Lee Miller

Anne Hollander, 20 July 2006

Lee Miller invented her first name as if to veil her femaleness when she was a society beauty and fashion model in the 1920s. It went along with a new shift in the style of sexual excitement, a new pleasure in androgyny: what Carolyn Burke discreetly calls ‘a redistribution of sexual energies’.

Later, her neutral first name helped to advance her short New York career as a...

As Good as Nude: Women in White

Anne Hollander, 6 April 2006

In Henry James and the Art of Dress (2001), Clair Hughes gave us a beautifully judged view of James’s delicate way with garments. She showed that he was capable of conveying the effect of an entire ensemble in a few well-chosen words, and of accurately rendering the way dress affects feeling. James, we learn, is at his most quicksilvery when writing about clothes. In Dressed in Fiction...

Fashion was always famous for its power, but only quite recently have people believed it has meaning. From time to time during the last two hundred years, writers have uneasily asserted that everything important about individuals, even about whole civilisations, could be learned from what people wore; but by the end of the 20th century, the meaning of clothing had become a respectable subject...

His Own Private Armenia: Arshile Gorky

Anne Hollander, 1 April 2004

Arshile Gorky is better known for his role in 20th-century American art than he is for his actual work. The collective memory, besides noting that his art reputedly links 1930s Surrealism to 1950s Abstract Expressionism, is rather vague about his pictures: were they realistic? Abstract? Easier to remember that he committed suicide, that he was a romantic character, that he was a liar.


Slicing and Mauling: The Art of War

Anne Hollander, 6 November 2003

David Kunzle’s monumental book, fusing deep historical scholarship with polemical zeal and pictorial acumen, has appeared at an apt historical moment. Several weeks ago I looked up from studying some of its illustrations, and my eye fell on the front-page photograph in that day’s International Herald Tribune. The picture seemed to have slid straight out of Kunzle’s book,...

The frontispiece to this biographical study is an unknown photographer’s portrait of the bearded Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) taken in about 1872. He sits awkwardly hunched on a crate with his back against a sequoia, grimly frowning into the distance, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a rumpled three-piece suit. His ragged trouser hems are prominent in the foreground, along with his...

Like Titian’S, Cartier-Bresson’s work began as the mirror of one epoch and is ending as that of another, simply because he invented the best mirror and kept polishing it Cartier-Bresson’s influence has been immense since his beginnings, not just on photography but on cinema and photojournalism, so that he has been largely responsible for 20th-century notions of what a superior realistic camera image should look like. Which is to say, for our sense of how modern life looks.

Wear and Tear

Anne Hollander, 6 February 1997

Alice Rawsthorn begins her book about Yves St Laurent with a dramatic prologue evoking a period late in the designer’s career, specifically the end of January and the beginning of February 1990. This opening functions as a sort of morality play, suggesting how we might view the story that follows. Yves St Laurent is introduced receiving a 13-minute ovation for his 1990 spring couture collection, a show comprising many dazzling examples of his homage to the clients, artists and predecessors who have inspired him for thirty years. At the finale, the 53-year-old designer mounts the runway looking fit and happy, and with unprecedented bonhomie he invites a select number of the adoring crowd to dinner in his own home, a huge Paris duplex laden with rare objects and hung with Goyas, Matisses and Warhols.

God in the Body

Anne Hollander, 25 January 1996

This book is a cry of pure pain, immensely difficult to read without groaning and sometimes weeping and getting up to pace the floor. Its flavour is aptly illustrated by the shocking jacket photograph of Nijinsky undergoing a catatonic seizure at the age of 37, about eight years after he wrote this text. With his necktie neatly knotted, his face shaven and his hair combed, hands curled up, the greatest dancer of his epoch – some say of any epoch – stares into the lens with a horrifying sacrificial patience. He would not die until the age of 60, after more than three decades of being moved around from sanatorium to sanatorium in Switzerland and England.

Without Looking

Anne Hollander, 3 August 1995

The first striking thing about Gilles Lipovetsky’s book is the complete absence of illustrations, even diagrams and graphs. This may be the first book about fashion without pictures – even Roland Barthes used diagrams. Of course, Balzac’s ‘Physiologie de la toilette’ didn’t have any, but that originally appeared in a magazine, and journal publication can preclude pictures even now. Books on clothes are conventionally believed to require them, however, and Lipovetsky’s naked text thus instantly announces itself as a work of thought, of vision only in the metaphorical sense. The absence of graphs and other graphics moreover makes him a sociologist of the old-fashioned literary stamp, again in the Balzacian mode, with some of the same energy and perversity in propounding unexpected theories. And there the comparison must stop, since Lipovetsky is not a story-teller, not an acute student of humanity, nor any kind of literary stylist.’


Anne Hollander, 10 March 1994

Isadora Duncan refused to be filmed while she danced. The most eager prophet of modern bodily movement avoided the great new vessel of the truth a motion – unwilling, it would seem, to do without the audience rapport that was indispensable to her success. Her reluctance went with her noticeably religious attitude toward her own dancing, and toward art in general. She found she rather liked going to the pictures, but the entertaining movie-camera was certainly not the thing to register the sacred communion between Isadora, her muse and her followers. That, rather, was for fellow artists to attempt.

How he got out of them

Anne Hollander, 24 September 1992

The jacket photo for Kafka’s Clothes shows him without any, sitting tailor-fashion on a beach, smiling above naked shoulders and a thin chest, the prominent ears rhyming with prominent bony knees. His swimming trunks are Obscured in shadow. It’s not at all the stiff-collared, well-buttoned Kafka we’re used to, and the one introduced in the interior of this study is also unfamiliar. But he is convincing. Clothes might seem to be among the least of Kafka’s interests, since he is usually taken as a dedicated visionary, struggling only to purify his mode of expression in order to probe more keenly into the most painful matters of life and death and men’s souls, and he is remembered as someone unworldly enough to break off his engagement in order to give himself only to his work. Mark Anderson has nevertheless shown that clothes mattered hugely to him.

Diamonds on your collarbone

Anne Hollander, 10 September 1992

The death of Martha Graham on 1 April 1991, a little more than a month before her 97th birthday, finally permitted Agnes DeMille to publish her biography of the dancer, after nearly twenty-five years of work and four years of waiting. It is a measure of DeMille’s reverence for Graham that she should have withheld until after Graham’s death what is by any standards an affectionate and appreciative account of her life and art, rather than risk of fending Graham’s own sense of herself in the slightest degree. DeMille seems to feel that she is approaching something truly sacred in discussing Graham, rather than simply writing the life of a rare artist and an old friend who had become a touchy old woman. She tells us in her preface that Martha had wished to leave a legend, not a biography; and she knows she is transgressing.

How not to be disgusting

Anne Hollander, 6 December 1990

Gabrielle Chanel is famous for the Little Black Dress, the Chanel Suit and Chanel No 5. The three can effectively sum up the Modern Woman, suggesting female elegance without pretension and feminine allure without musk and whalebone. The Chanel style precludes the traditional forms of guile by which women have been supposed to arouse a man’s desire in order to lay hands on his money, rather than match his lust with their own. Chanel’s celebrated inventions clothe a female creature who is all the more sexually interesting for being nobody’s doll, besides being nobody’s fool. Even further, they suggest an unaggressive sensuality, the deep pleasure of a self-contained bodily ease that demands no sacrifice of decorum nor startling exoticism to be immediately compelling.

Real women stay at home

Anne Hollander, 12 July 1990

The rise of Laura Ashley seems like the right accompaniment to the rise of contemporary feminism, following her initial vogue in the radical climate of the Sixties. The first move was back to natural fabrics and basic shapes; and then, just as women were trying to get out of the kitchen and down off the pedestal, she moved on to a theatricalised restoration of The Angel in the House, rural version, in all her printed-cotton glory. It was an inspired idea that was bound to succeed, especially when backed up by Laura Ashley’s own desire to live up to the domestic ideal herself while simultaneously reaping the profits of a business.



6 April 2006

An editing error at the end of my review of Dressed in Fiction by Clair Hughes has me say that Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa makes a shroud out of her wedding dress (LRB, 6 April). Clarissa’s own reference to her shroud as ‘wedding garments’ is metaphorical; she could never have any real ones.

Killing Stripes: Suits

Christopher Turner, 1 June 2017

I went​ to Henry Poole & Co, the oldest tailor on Savile Row, for a fitting. Suits start at £5500, and I couldn’t afford to have one made, but the firm had agreed to teach...

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Peter Wollen, 19 October 1995

My first thoughts, in connection with suits, are of Lucky Lucan, Joseph Beuys and the Thin White Duke, at the head of an imaginary horde of accountants, dandies, clubland heroes, zoot-suiters and...

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Perfectly dressed

Peter Campbell, 7 November 1991

Words about pictures are often commentaries which justify categories. They give reasons for inclusions, exclusions and orderings. Connoisseurs distinguish genuine works from misattributions, and...

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