In a culture of selfies, endless personal revelation on the minutia of our lives, of pop stars who bare all and tabloid celebrity confessionals, are we mistaking Exposure for confident self-knowledge?

The Private Life (Why We Remain In The Dark)

By Josh Cohen

Granta Books 3rd Oct 2013

Kindle and hard copy editions on amazon.

Why All Walks Recommends

  • Fashion and body-image is deconstructed within a psychoanalytic framework

If you were ever wondering why we are driven to engage in the business of dressing up, Cohen’s, The Private Life, undresses and lays bare the territory of prescribed or self-authored style.

Asking readers to move beyond cuts and silhouettes to the arena of a psyche playing hide and seek, veiled and unveiled, we learn that fashion as a language allows us to mine the body for hidden dialogue and talk in emotions and feelings to ourselves and each other.

But what are we to make of fashion’s most favoured utterance on the “weariness of life from the lips of the haunted, languid muse”? Or its homage to “a body revealing the dead-end of desire” and our obedience in pursuit of the “beautiful empty shell”?

Set as a series of short stories, Cohen, a Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London and a Psychoanalyst with a private practice, mixes tabloid heroines with literary heavy-weights,  to cover a variety of topics including pornography, advertising, art and religion. The style is rich and in places, laugh-out-loud funny.

‘The Disgrace of Being Human,’ appears as the final chapter but should indeed be your first point of entry if you question the message that fashion and appearance industries currently broadcast and wonder why we seem to be such willing followers.

A must for fashion thinkers.


Caryn Franklin

Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 32 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.

Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years and proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin