Synopses & Reviews
Putting on the Dog
explores the age-old relationship between humans and animals, providing fascinating details about the historic use of animals as clothing. In the exploratory spirit of The Orchid Thief
and The Omnivore's Dilemma
, Melissa Kwasny travels the globe gathering firsthand accounts of traditions and manufacturing methods, from aboriginal to modern, as she investigates the phenomenology of silk, skin, wool, feathers, and pearls, long coveted materials that even now are regarded as precious and luxurious. From brain-tanning of elk hide in Montana to the shearing of wild sheep off the coast of Maine, Kwasny investigates the cultural history of fashion, highlighting the people who are working toward preserving our relationship with animals both imaginatively and physically. Visiting current industrial manufacturers and meeting people who have spent their lives working with animals and subsisting on the materials they provide — farmers, ranchers, tanners, weavers, shepherds, and artisans--Kwasny examines historical rates of human consumption and overconsumption of these materials, as well as current efforts to mitigate environmental and ethical damage and move toward sustainability.
Though Kwasny does consider concerns of animal rights groups, Putting on the Dog is not an anti-hunting or anti-trapping or anti-farming book. From silkworms grown on plantations in Japan to mink farms off Denmark's western coast and pearl beds in the Sea of Cort's, the book focuses more on the ways people work with animals and what we should learn from those exchanges. Animal welfare, worker safety, environmental health, sustainable practices, product accountability, and respect for indigenous knowledge and practice — consumer awareness of these things is driving change in the fashion industry, creating a slow fashion movement.
At its heart, Putting on the Dog brings to life fascinating details about the historic ceremonial and practical use of animals as clothing, helping us bridge the growing rift between human consciousness and consumption with the interdependence and sustenance that the natural world offers us.
“Open-minded, complex, lyrical and unpretentious. Anyone interested in the production side of fashion — or any curious owner of a wool sweater or silk scarf — will find their interest rewarded.” Publishers Weekly
"A first-rate, engaging exploration of the natural and environmental origins of clothing, interwoven with delightful narratives of Kwasny’s investigative travels." Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man
"What’s most interesting about Kwasny’s all-around illuminating book is that it offers no easy answers and shows just how widely views range on the ideal relationship that humans ought to have with animals." Quartzy
About the Author
Melissa Kwasny is the author of six collections of poems, including Pictograph, Reading Novalis in Montana, and The Nine Senses, which contains a series of poems that won the Poetry Society of America's 2008 Cecil Hemly Award. A portion of Pictograph received the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, judged by Ed Roberson. Kwasny is also the author of Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision and has edited multiple anthologies, including Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry, 1800-1950 and, with M. L. Smoker, I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights. Kwasny's work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Boston Review, and The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral. She lives in the Elkhorn Mountains outside of Jefferson City, Montana.