Charlie Porter’s New Book ‘Bring No Clothes’ Is A Radical Account Of The Bloomsbury Group

Wayward hemlines, safety-pinned smocks and loose coattails. In Charlie Porter’s new book, he’s looked in retrospect at the crux of change in the early 20th century to unveil the shift from prim and proper Victorian-core to our modern fits today. In doing so, he’s come up with some answers as to why we wear what we wear now.

Porter’s Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion is a radical account, unbuttoning the artistic and sexual mavericks that were the Bloomsbury Group. Now known as “fashion’s queer trailblazers,” the collective were ahead of the curb in what they wore, disrupting society’s expectations – the original gender bender cis-tem offenders. They were in a “state of anti-fashion, so often fashion is about refusal”, says Porter, amplifying that this was the start of a movement.

As a writer, fashion critic and art curator, Porter has beautifully crafted his text into an eclectic mix of six personal deep dives, following some of Britain’s most influential figures in literature and art. This tribe included Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant to name a few. Woolf – being the title’s inspiration – once penned to her friends to “please bring no clothes” as an act of rebellion against the corseted constraints of her childhood.

This was a reaction to clothes previously being used as a method of control by wider society. So instead, they subverted traditional dress as a form of liberation creatively, sexually and intellectually. Bell being the “silent sewer”, always creating her own garments and fastening her clothes with safety pins; Grant, who played with the traditional suit through a homoerotic lens; and Woolf being the interrogator always wanting to understand why we have to abide by particular forms of dress.

What’s interesting is that Porter’s muses aren’t necessarily from the fashion industry itself. Similarly, in his first book What Artists Wear, he looked at individuals from the art world, real people and how they interact with clothes. Proving that, pre-fashion houses, the Bloomsbury Group were the people influencing and playing with fashion.

Not only is there the book to engulf, you can visit a major exhibition curated by Porter and supported by Christian Dior Couture at Charleston’s new cultural site in the heart of Lewes, East Sussex. Featuring Bloomsbury members’ personal items exhibited for the first time and never-before-seen portraits by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, alongside catwalk fashion by Dior, Fendi, Burberry and Comme des Garçons, it only makes sense to be shown there, the place they dwelled for decades.

Bring No Clothes is a revelatory telling of a moment in history where Porter leaves no stone unturned. He interacts with the Bloomsbury archives in an intimate and unabridged way and presents them in an unfiltered light. By doing this he’s managed to uncover unanswered questions and create a manifesto for dressing today. Meaning it’s a must read for fashion anarchists, admirers and anyone in between – the perfect addition to your autumnal reading list.

Photography courtesy of Penguin Books and The Charleston Trust. ‘Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion’ is out September 7. Pre-order your copy here.


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