Cintra Wilson: An American Journey

Cintra Wilson is no stranger to style and fashion. A former New York Times ‘Critical Shopper’ contributor, and voted as one of Fashionista’s 50 Most Influential People in New York Fashion, Wilson definitely remains an authority on clothing and attire.

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In her recently published book Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style, Wilson imparts all her chutzpah about US fashion through her trademark hilarity. For the uninitiated, Cintra is known as ‘Dorothy Parker of the cyber age’, but is even more well-known for her amusing commentary on American pop culture.

So, what’s the premise of Fear and Clothing? Wilson traveled lengths and breadths of the USA to inquire about different ‘belt’ styles. Then, she compiled them all together in her book, including the good, the bad, the ugly, the outrageous, and much more.

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Her “fashion road trip” across the United States lasted for three years and ranged across various economic “belt regions” in America. Acting as a fashion anthropologist, Wilson astutely documents and decodes a sartorial American identity through these different styles.

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Wilson grew up in what she refers to as “Macramé Belt”, San Francisco. Further, Citra describes the city as “one of the few places … where a person really can create a fantasy avatar … and live in this costume full-time.” Citing an instance from her risqué side, she adds, people come to San Francisco, to “change the sex of their clothes, or to change their sex altogether!”

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During her visit to Wyoming, which she calls “Frost Belt”, Wilson goes gaga over Western ‘belt’, and falls for the ‘old cowboy hats’ charm’.

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In Washington D.C. – or the “The Beltway” – she notes both men and women epitomize conservative dressing.

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Quite the keen observer, Wilson doesn’t miss a beat about fashion in Miami, “The Sand Belt”. Her nonchalant remark: Naked equals fashion-forward!

Wilson’s trip also included “Bourbon Belt” of Kentucky, where she became enamored with costumes of Derby spectators, and “Futility Belt” of Brooklyn, where she was amused by the “stealth wealth” of distressed clothing.

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Wilson sums up her experience and philosophy on fashion rather succinctly, “No matter where you live, your closet should be filled with things that are an expression of who you really are…fashion should be a “joyful and important … way to empower yourself.”

In short, Fear and Clothing is a ‘closet journey’ of politics, sexuality, class, education, hopes, and dreams across America. What do you think of Wilson’s observations and fashion critique? Do you belong to any of these “belts”? Let us know in the comments section below.

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