#BookReview: Unraveled by Maxine Bedat

Eye Opening, Yet Critically Flawed. Bedat does *phenomenal* work in this text when reporting what she has found in her investigations of trying to track even a “typical” cotton *garment* from the cotton seed to its eventual use and destruction. Using each chapter as a way to trace one particular step in the chain was truly a stroke of editing genius, as it concentrates just what is happening at that particular stage. And some of it – including the direct link, in Bangladesh at minimum, between garment factories and sex work (where in one particular harrowing tale, a source tells Bedat that when she gets in the van to be taken to a factory as a day worker, she sometimes finds herself at a massage parlor instead) – is utterly horrific. It is these sections of the book that are *so* strong that the book *had* to be rated fairly highly.

HOWEVER, when Bedat speaks almost at *all* of policy or her own opinions… well, this is when the critical flaws become apparent. To be fair, she *is* at least somewhat more balanced than many leftists, and outright points out things that ardent Bernie Sanders / AOC types won’t want to hear. But in her attacks of “neoliberalist capitalism” – a running strawman throughout the narrative – … eh, I’ll be a touch gentle and go with “YMMV”. If you happen to be on that side, you’re going to love her commentary here. If, like me, you find yourself more an adherent of Milton, Mises, Hayek, Bastiat, etc (the so-called “Austrian School of Economics)… you’re not going to like her commentary so much. The star reduction, to be clear, isn’t from the fact that I don’t like much of the commentary – but that I can so easily refute it, despite not being a trained economist (just a – clearly ๐Ÿ˜‰ – well read human :D).

And yet, the actual reporting here is simply too strong, too eye opening. This is a book that *needs* to be read for its current issues reporting, if for no other reason – and even if her commentary leads one to contemplate defenestration of the book. If you’ve read Hafsa Lodi’s Modesty or Virginia Postrel’s Fabric of Civilization (among presumably numerous other recent texts on fashion / clothing/ fabric), do yourself a favor and read this one too. Even if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read all three books. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Very much recommended.

This review of Unraveled by Maxine Bedat was originally written on February 20, 2021.

Featured New Release of the Week: Modesty by Hafsa Lodi

This week we’re looking at a seemingly comprehensive look at modern Muslim fashion. This week we’re looking at Modesty by Hafsa Lodi.

I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian tradition, the Southern Baptist Church. While my church was a *bit* more moderate in dress – women were allowed to wear pants, though it was frowned upon by the senior citizen crowd, for example – I was in a region (exurban Atlanta) where knowing people who attended more conservative churches with more stringent dress codes wasn’t uncommon. On church beach trips or pool parties, for example, one piece swimsuits for females were a common requirement. Even in that era, men and boys were expected to at minimum wear pants and close toed shoes along with some appropriate top (could be just a tshirt, as long as the torso was covered, though men generally wore at minimum polo shirts to services, and often dress shirts and ties). Hell, for much of my life my dad has been a deacon (church elder, basically) in the church my parents and brothers (and their families) still attend to this day. I actually remember one infamous example where our preacher was preaching at a church in a neighboring County in August. This being Georgia, let’s just say you don’t exactly want to wear pants in Georgia, and this was a Revival service to boot – a week long (ish) event of nightly church services, seen as a way to be extra pious and encourage more people to come to church. So it wasn’t exactly like this was a Sunday morning service (the “most holy” services in at least that brand of Christianity, where standards and protocols tend to be the most stringent). My parents were insisting I wear pants. I was insisting I wear shorts because it was so hot. At this point I was in my early teens or so, young enough that I couldn’t yet drive, old enough that I could make my desires known and fight for them. I actually don’t remember how that situation turned out – I don’t remember if we made the service that night or what I wore, though there is a faint thought that I did in fact wear pants and we did in fact make it to service.

The point being, while I’ve never actively considered how hard it may be to find trendy clothes that fit the modest standards of such groups, I have been a part of a culture that at least expects it, if not outright demands it/ forces it. So I get a version of where Lodi is coming from here, even while never experiencing her exact situation.

Which ultimately leads to the one criticism I have of this book.

Lodi does an *amazing* job of documenting Generation M, the Muslim Millenial Female, and its desires for trendy yet traditional (ish) fashion. She truly does a remarkable job of showing the history of both uncovering a century ago or so and recovering over the last 50 years or so, including the various debates and schools of thought on each. For a treatise specifically on these issues, this book is seemingly damn near perfect and for that alone it was utterly fascinating – as despite having watched a few episodes of America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway, I’m not exactly knowledgeable of that world at all really.

But the most glaring weakness of the book, the one that leaves it at just “amazing” rather than elevating it closer to “transcendental”, turns out to be that very laser focus on Muslim issues specifically. Sure, she starts and ends with an example of her childhood Mormon friend, and Christians and Jews (and specifically Mormons, whose Christianity is doubted in at least some circles) are mentioned sporadically and even no-faith reasons are mentioned even less, but are in fact mentioned. But they are almost always more as an aside and are never considered in any real kind of depth. What this book really needed was maybe just a single chapter each where Lodi stepped away from the Muslim angle and actually – if briefly – explored the same histories. thought processes, and modern issues of those specific groups. Particularly from the non-faith, skin care/ sun avoidance angle, it could have been a truly remarkable addition to the text here.

But again, even with that omission, this is truly an excellent book and particularly for those remotely interested in fashion generally or modest fashion in particular – and especially if you’re an Instagram addict with those proclivities – you’ll want to pick up this book immediately. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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