Monday, April 20, 2009
Ages ago, I borrowed Paris Fashion: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele from the library. Steele's book was enjoyable, instructive, and well-written. I kept smiling to myself when I came across quotes that resonated with me; I marked them with Post-Its so that I could share them with you. Enjoy!
On the transcendent, transformative power of fashion in the 19th century:
"The people who were best placed to exploit fashion to alter their apparent identity were often those who belonged to new social strata, people whose class positions were ambiguous, because people like them had not really existed before. The new white-collar workers, people like office clerks and shop assistants, entered into the fashion game often more wholeheartedly than the members of the old bourgeoisie. Although deep class divisions still existed, individuals had far greater freedom to present themselves as they wished to be seen. Fashion served both to maintain the hierarchy and, subtly, to weaken it--as anonymous individuals were increasingly judged on the basis of their appearance, of who they appeared to be."
Harem pants and pajama looks aren't new to SS09:
"By the Twenties, Oriental robes had led through harem pants to lounging pyjamas, providing another prototype for women in trousers. In this respect, Poiret was far more radical than Fortuny, since Poiret scandalized Paris by showing his harem skirts on the street and at the races."
On clothing as a means of expression:
"The idea of a language of clothes may be too simplistic. Some types of clothing (such as, perhaps, the business suit) communicate a fairly direct message. But most clothing messages are more like music: They are expressive in an indirect and allusive way. Indeed, it may be embarrassing if clothing messages could be easily decoded and observers could identify exactly what the wearer was trying to say: 'I am rich,' for example, or 'I am sexy.'"