Wigley follows the trajectory of this key subtext by closely reading the statements and designs of most of the protagonists, demonstrating that it renders modern architecture's relationship with the psychosexual economy of fashion much more ambiguous than the architects' endlessly repeated rejections of fashion would suggest. Indeed, Wigley asserts, the very intensity of these rejections is a symptom of how deeply they are embedded in the world of clothing. By drawing on arguments about the relationship between clothing and architecture first formulated in the middle of the nineteenth century, modern architects in fact presented a sophisticated theory of the surface, modernizing architecture by transforming the status of the surface.
White Walls, Designer Dresses shows how this seemingly incidental clothing logic actually organizes the detailed design of the modern building, dictating a system of polychromy, understood as a multicolored outfit. The familiar image of modern architecture as white turns out to be the effect of a historiographical tradition that has worked hard to suppress the color of the surfaces of the buildings that it describes. Wigley analyzes this suppression in terms of the sexual logic that invariably accompanies discussions of clothing and color, recovering those sensuously colored surfaces and the extraordinary arguments about clothing that were used to defend them.