Front cover image for Accessories to modernity : fashion and the feminine in nineteenth-century France

Accessories to modernity : fashion and the feminine in nineteenth-century France

This book explores the ways in which feminine fashion accessories, such as cashmere shawls, parasols, fans, and handbags, became essential instruments in the bourgeois idealization of womanhood in nineteenth-century France. Considering how these fashionable objects were portrayed in fashion journals and illustrations, as well as fiction, the book looks at the histories and cultural weight of the objects and offers fresh readings of works by Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola, some of the most widely read novels of the period. As social boundaries were becoming more fluid in the nineteenth century, one effort to impose order over the looming confusion came, in the case of women, through fashion. The fashion accessory became a crucial tool through which social distinction could be created, projected, and maintained. The author examines the interplay of imperialist expansion and domestic rituals, the assertion of privilege in the face of increasing social mobility, gendering practices and their relation to social hierarchies, and the rise of commodity culture and woman's paradoxical status as both consumer and object within it. By focusing on these luxury objects, she reframes the feminine fashion accessory as a key symbol of modernity that bridges the erotic and proper, the domestic and exotic, and mass production and the work of art while making a larger claim about the "accessory" status -- in terms of both complicity and subordination -- of bourgeois women in nineteenth-century France. Women were not simply passive bystanders but rather were themselves accessories to the work of modernity from which they were ostensibly excluded
Print Book, English, ©2010
University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, ©2010
viii, 281 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
9780812242591, 0812242599
La Femme comme il (en) faut and the pursuit of distinction
Unpacking the Corbeille de mariage
"Cashmere fever": virtue and the domestication of the exotic
Mademoiselle Ombrelle: shielding the fair sex
Fan fetish: gender, nostalgia, and commodification
Between good intentions and ulterior motives: the culture of handbags
Epilogue. The feminine accessory