Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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Retro fashion and the “New Prettiness”

The New Prettiness/via

In this month’s Elle, Daphne Merkin (one of my favorite writers) dissects what she calls the “New Prettiness” trend in fashion – the revival of the ultra-feminine, 1950s-style silhouette, which is especially prominent this season. Think pencil skirts, A-line frocks, nostalgic floral patterns.

Much as I see the New Domesticity, Merkin sees New Prettiness as a response to a scary, financially unsure, sped-up, tech-obsessed 21st century world.

“[T]he New Prettiness comes at a moment when the culture at large seems freshly enticed by old-fashioned values, whether served up in extreme form by the Tea Party or conveyed by the hipster embrace of everything vintage and home-grown,” she writes.

Like me, Merkin wonders about the symbolism of re-embracing the trappings of old-fashioned femininity. She asks whether young women are simply tired of having to think about what message their clothes send, and that it’s easier – especially in challenging times – to look to an older era.

“We might ridicule the gender constrictions which marked the ’50s and ’60s, but the success of Mad Men, among other backward-looking phenomena, suggests that they also speak to some part of ourselves that doesn’t want to construct a working model of femaleness from scratch each day. I can’t be alone in sensing a withdrawal from embattled agendas of self-definition, especially among younger women, as well as a renewed interest in traditional modes of femininity…”

She also worries “does dressing like Doris Day in an A-line or pleated skirt mean that we have to go around batting our eyelashes and acting all helpless? Is it possible, that is, to go back in time without feeling railroaded into an older, discarded style of being?”

(Spoiler: she decides yes, it is possible. But you should read the piece, because it’s great. Sadly, it’s not online).

4 comments to Retro fashion and the “New Prettiness”

  • I love vintage and I love retro styles in general, but I got so excited last year when it 1970s “working girl” styles were in for once instead of the 1950s/early1960s silhouettes. I mean sure, the hourglass shape is hard to hate, but it’s been divested of pretty much all the irony of the anti-consumerist vintage revival.

    Also, I’ve always wanted to be the Charlie girl. Check out those slacks!

  • Cathy

    I think a lot of that look has to do with Princess Kate. She has that figure and a lot of the clothes she wears esp when she got engaged and the wedding dress, etc and there was so media hype on her at the time, that I think she was a big influence on this trend.

  • I wonder/worry about the nostalgia aspect of this fashion trend too. It certainly seems influenced by the success of Mad Men and Princess Kate, neither of which are exactly feminist sources of inspiration.

    As someone who is curvy and always loved these silhouettes, however, I am happy they’re in!

  • I love the idea of ‘New Prettiness’…but it’s certainly going to push up the prices of vintage sewing patterns :)