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About the Author

Virginia Postrel is an award-winning journalist and a visiting fellow at the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy at Chapman University. She is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and has been a columnist for the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. She is the mostrar mais author of The Substance of Style and The Power of Glamour. Her research is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She lives in Los Angeles, California. mostrar menos

Obras por Virginia Postrel


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
Locais de residência
Los Angeles, California, USA
Princeton University
The New York Times
The Atlantic Monthly



The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World weaves together the very long and interesting history of textiles with the future of the textiles industry. While explaining complex and ancient processes for spinning, weaving, dyeing, etc. Postrel always emphasizes the ingenuity and technological advancements of the textile industry in civilizations hundreds or thousands of years ago. This is balanced by looking at modern research in textiles today. I generally prefer the historical view, but I do appreciate the push to make the topic relevant and show how it has evolved from then to now. I was absolutely fascinated by the topic and appreciated that it was presented in an accessible way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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caaleros | 15 outras críticas | May 17, 2024 |
I will never look at textiles the same way again. The author sets the stage with a Preface, then has a chapter for each aspect of fabric production and use: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, and Innovators. She concludes with a brief “Afterward: Why Textiles.” Each chapter starts with the earliest, most basic information then builds on that with the technology used to deal with it. The very end of the book has a glossary, from abacist to woad. This is followed by a 30-page section of end notes detailing whence her information comes, if one wishes to dig deeper. It concludes with an index.

I’ve played with the basics of spinning, weaving, and dyeing various fibers for years, and learned more about the impacts of these on civilization itself, as well as on fabrics, in the later chapters. It is a very readable account, though dense with information. The place of woven cloth, as a commodity, on the foundation of international banking, for instance, was eye-opening. This is not a “how to” book, but rather one that explores the basic technology for each aspect, chronicles its history and the impacts on the world at that time and now. It is also very current – published in 2021.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly to everyone interested in how fabric shaped the world we live in, with a sense of how that technology is shaping the future. Fascinating!

The author is, or at least has been, local. She mentions some places in Los Angeles in the last and the Southern California Handweavers Guild. I apparently bought this paperback at last year’s handweavers convention in Torrance, because my copy is signed by the author, dated last May. I’m so glad I bought it.
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EowynA | 15 outras críticas | Apr 20, 2024 |
Simply a brilliant and iconoclastic work of nonfiction. The author has a mind for ideas and their consequences and makes a case for the defense of the independent creator.
jwhenderson | 9 outras críticas | Jan 27, 2023 |
The book consists of seven chapters with a preface and afterward. Each chapter deals with a particular part of fabric production: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, and Innovators. Each chapter starts in ancient times and ends in modern ones, showing how things have changed over time.

Fabric is one of those things that is so ubiquitous and important for life, and yet is also so ordinary and cheap nowadays that we simply forget about it. The book emphasizes that for most of human history fabric was at the forefront of thought. The amount of time and effort that’s gone into clothing and cloth for other purposes (sails, table coverings, curtains, blankets, etc.) is astronomical.

The book begins with the idea that modern people look at ancient art dealing with women and see a spindle and think, ah, this is a domestic scene. But we forget that the spindle as a means of turning fibres into thread was the start of production, necessary for the home, yes, but also an important industry. Millions of women over the course of history have spun thread and made cloth, whether of flax, cotton, wool, or silk. It was constant work because cloth is always needed. The book also shows how spinning thread was undervalued, partly because it was women’s work, but also because the higher the cost of thread, the higher the cost of cloth. We do the same thing today, keeping the final cost of clothing low so the rich can buy a lot of it, even if that means exploiting the workers who sew the cloth into clothing.

My interests are in ancient and medieval history so I didn’t expect the modern sections to interest me, but they were also fascinating. Learning about how cotton plants were cross bread and a fluke mutation created the cotton plants bred today was neat.

This is an excellent book dealing with a topic that affects everyone, but to which we give entirely too little thought.
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1 vote
Strider66 | 15 outras críticas | Jul 19, 2022 |



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