Start your review of Fashion Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System Write a review Reading clothes and post-fashion the way one would read a poem for example. Learning fashion as the subtle play of Geist und Kleid, the erotics of intelligence, is described as equivalent to learning the art of reading literature. Mar 16, Katrina Sark rated it it was ok Adorned in Zeitgeist, pp. Its stage is no longer the aristocratic salon or the gatherings of select society at the theater, opera or racecourse.
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What Fashion Strictly Divided 7 respect to the enigma of the other part, of the fashion-conscious dandy, Beauvoir concedes that the subject would require an independent inquiry. From Veblen and Simmel to Knig and Bourdieu, there has been a consistent even a desperate attempt to describe fashion as functioning to divide the classes and the sexes, and therefore to maintain the social order.
But when it comes to concretely demonstrating this, the critical discourse always gets tangled up in the kind of contradictions that mark the examples taken from Veblen and de Beauvoir. One such stumbling block, which regularly reappears at critical moments in historical treatments of fashion, is the demi-monde, the world of the dandy and the coquette, which ourished at the birthplace of fashion in modern- ity, in the Second Empire of Napoleon III. Marx assigns a central role in his salvational scheme to this phenomenon.
Having attained power with and in Napoleon III, the demi-monde, which stands outside the order of class and gender, represents for Marx the necessary terminal phase of bourgeois capitalism.
As a preliminary to the emergence of the new, in the form of the proletarian revolution, capitalism here brings itself to an end through a farce, as Marx says, which follows upon the tragedy of the Revolution. Play it again Sam could be the motto for the 18th Brumaire, in which the history of the West gives one last performance, and, through a travesty of all its previous performances, denitively attains its end.
The demi-monde, in which the separation of classes and of sexes is perverted, this time following Marx irreparably, is the agent of this travesty.
As the necessary preliminary stage to the proletarian revolution, which is to bring about the radical break with the structure of all previous history, Marx welcomes the phenomenon, even if he nds it absurd, and describes it, in tones reminiscent of Rousseau, as a society in which men sell themselves to other men like courtesans, and in which heterosexuality and masculinity both go by the board.
The revolutionary potential of the asociality of the demi-monde is dependent on the regime which it travesties. The sociology of fashion, caught in the paradox of its demi- mondaine substrata, has taken no notice of the prehistory of this travesty. Instead, sociological discourse has produced ever new 8 Postfashion variations on the deep-rooted moral condemnation of fashion, a reaction repeated in the existentialist, and later in a certain part of the feminist discourse on fashion.
Documents of the categorical rejection of fashion, viewed as an allegory of the vanity of Dame World, span the whole history of the topic, from the Old Testament up until late modernity.
The same standpoint is expressed by a social revolutionary like Savonarola in the Florence of the fteenth century on the one hand, and in the edifying remarks of Mme de Maintenon, the later favorite of Louis XIV, on the other. Against the false beauty of appearances stands the truth of the other world. The brilliant ornament, the splendid crimson, the long rustling train of a dress, the lace- tted seductive low-cut neckline, the luxurious golden hair that ows from the shimmering head-wear, all of this only snares one in the false joys of the profane world, for which we deprive ourselves of the true and permanent joys of the other world.
The beauty of a male leg, the play of the calf and of the thigh, advantageously set off in esh-colored, skintight boots or nely embroidered silk stockings; the gleaming white of the complexion underlined by the luxurious lace; the genitals impressively emphasized by expensively embroidered velvet and silk inlays: the codpiece that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of its proportions, ornamentation and magnifying realism.
From the slits of trousers of the Spanish grandees as later from those of the German estate-servants, a lining made from a hundred cubits of silk owed so luxuriously that when the trouser-heroes passed, there was a sound like the river Elbe running over a bridge or over a weir.
In the ideological elaborations of the republican democracy in the eighteenth century, fashion becomes a point of intersection between the division of classes and the division of sexes a point of crisis and a symptom for a new order of things. Fashion, vanity and luxury but also the emergence of women with political inuence into the public sphere become the signature of the obsolete political form of the monarchy.
The traditional symptoms of moral decay become What Fashion Strictly Divided 9 symptoms of political decline. The corrupt, softened i. The Republic envisages itself as an order of simplicity and rigor. Along with equality and fraternity, it proclaims the disappearance of the feminine out of the public sphere.
In the woman, then, fashion, vanity and luxury nd not only their natural bearer, but also their political representative. Against the kind of men who had to advance the cause of their career and ambition on an individual basis, via women, i. A monarchy needs subjects, subjected to the king, but a republic needs free men thus Rousseau, the prime ideologue of the new political discourse. In his reections on women, luxury and fashion, and on their corrupting inuence on the cause of the free, equal and brotherly Republic, he has an illustrious predecessor in Montesquieu, whose diagnosis leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity.
The society of the fair sex spoils the manners and forms the taste; the desire of giving greater pleasure than others establishes the embellishments of dress; and the desire of pleasing others more than ourselves gives rise to fashions. Thus fashion is a subject of importance; by encouraging a triing turn of mind, it continually increases the branches of its commerce. This does not make things any better, it merely unmasks a characteristic trait of monarchy.
In monarchies women are subject to very little restraint, because as the distinction of ranks calls them to court, there they assume a spirit of liberty, which is almost the only one tolerated in that place. Each courtier avails himself of their charms and passions, in order to advance his fortune: and as their weakness admits not of pride, but of vanity, luxury constantly attends them.
With women idleness, luxury, gallantry and libertinage reign. Their domain is a domain of vice. Men are forced to submit 10 Postfashion to an empty arbitrary tyranny, in order to avoid being judged ridiculous.
In such a society, exclusively determined by appearance, cata- strophe cannot be far away, for here the difference between the sexes threatens to be erased. The desire of the women to please and that of the men to please them in return lead to both sexes losing their essential distinctive properties. It may be ridiculous when women become men, but it is horrifying to see men turn into women. Rousseau sees this perversion in the Babel that cities have become, where the public inuence of women has turned men into slaves in a seraglio owned by women.
Unable to make themselves into men, the women make us into women, 13 Rousseau. A determinate political discourse will henceforth no longer be separable from a discourse on gender and sexuality.
A particular social class of men the nobles and a particular form of sovereignty the monarchy are characterized by a lack of masculinity: Marx edies himself with this observation. In the monarchy, men have to disguise themselves as women. This sickness spreads like a plague, and even threatens the pure, free republican, and not least, Reformed Geneva: On my last trip to Geneva I already saw several of these young ladies in jerkins [Rousseau is describing young men], with white teeth, plump hands, piping voices, and pretty green parasols in their hand, rather maladroitly counterfeiting men.
The justaucorps, the tight-tting jacket associated with the nobility, conrms the suspicion of femininity in the age of the loose-tting woolen cloth coat of the bourgeois, introduced from England. Nobility and femininity have in common an emphasis on the body, which is not, however, fitting for the citizen.
The success of Rousseaus rhetoric is reected in a decree that makes unmistakably clear who wears the trousers in the post- revolutionary republic. In the 8th Brumaire of the year II 29 October , women are prohibited from wearing long pants. The revolution of is also, and not least, a revolution in fashion, and it creates a long-lasting revolutionary potential for fashion, which will eventually destroy the order of the sexes that the revolution has instituted.
Henceforth, the citizen-man the only real man stands in a negative relation to the world of frivolous appearance. He is. Therefore he does not need to appear nor to represent. The ability to identify oneself with the masculine leads to the What Fashion Strictly Divided 11 standardization of male clothing.
In contrast to the masculine body of the court, the bourgeois masculine body is not sexually marked. Every masculine display of sexual beauty is proscribed.
All the ornaments of masculinity come to an end with the new drainpipe trousers. Balzacs Physiology of Fashion aptly describes this tendency. From the Revolution a segregationist society emerges, in which the sharpest line of demarcation is no longer horizontal noble or non-noble but vertical man or woman. Fashion becomes a synonym for femininity.
To the extent to which he renounces fashion and adopts the simplistic rhetoric of anti-rhetoric, the man gains identity, authenticity, unquestioned masculinity, seriousness. To be sure, it is a matter even here of a characteristic non-simultaneity of the simultaneous.
And it is again the court that after revolution insists on bringing noble, representative masculinity as a historical surplus and relic from a bygone age into civilian uniforms whose splendor nowadays seems more like a curiosity.
Upon the occasion of an exhibition of the wardrobe of the Viennese court from the time of Sisi and Franz Josef, Figaro Magazine emphasized the magnicence of the parade uniforms. Richly embroidred, studded with pearls, turquoise and silver, and lined with mink and panther, they were equal in their splendor to the womens wardrobes.
These uniforms are relics from the imperial and, in the strictest sense, the pre-modern and pre-fashionable, non-bourgeois period, which, in their aggressive withdrawal from modern life, represent a peculiar outlet of suppressed tendencies. In a constant state of exception in bourgeois times, the uniformed man marks a masculine sexuality that is not particularly emphasized by the bourgeois unit.
Where the aristocratic feminine or the heroic solitary dandy are wrapped up in frivolity, and ostentatiously resist all functionalization, the masculinity that clothes itself in uniform aligns itself with a strictly hierarchized and functionalizable collectivity. Although in themselves pre-modern phenomena, uniforms, owing to their massive presence in bourgeois society, have a unique status in that they represent the only place where masculinity is literally on parade.
At least until the perfection, after the two world wars, of the camouage-uniform according to the ideal of the guerilla, the uniform maintains something of the display of splendor characteristic of the nobility. The body that was rst standardized and measured was that of the soldier in the Prussian army. The militarys norming and standardization of the human body according to sizes still four at that time, the so-called stomach sizes of the ofcers not included is the sine qua non of the prt--porter.
Beyond the technical measure that is provided by the uniformity of uniforms, uniforms offer a wealth of references as diverse as they are puzzling from the blue admirals jacket with gold buttons and gold stripes on the arm, combined with white pants for both men and women, all the way to the martial uniform- rags in the fashion of Gaultier.
Within the masculine-homosexual spectrum, the quasi-uniformed, ultra-macho men culminating in Toms men form the counterpart to queens and fairies; they constantly stress that one can be queer without being feminine; rather one can be a complete man, a real man, more masculine than other men.
This ostentation of the more masculine, this excess of staging and presentation, this having too much and being more does not fail to awaken the suspicion that one is somehow lacking in substantial maleness. The citizen-man, who renounces all sexuality marked by clothes, is able to escape this threat. Clothing never divided the sexes more rigidly than in the nineteenth century.
Not only did men and women clothe themselves very differently; it was above all the relationship of clothing to gender that was different with the strange exceptions of the dandy and the uniform.
Masculine meant unmarked gender; feminine meant marked sexuality. This purely historical alignment of femininity and marked sexuality qua fashion versus masculinity and unmarked sexuality qua indifference to fashion has virtually attained the status of an anthropological given.
This is amply demonstrated by Richard Alewyns description of aristocratic mens fashion of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Colorful, resplendent, richly ornamented with ribbons, bows, lace and feathers, studded with pearls, precious stones and valuable buttons, and embroidered with gold, the clothing of the masculine nobility at the court of Louis XIV appears effeminate to him: the man, usurping the female sphere, decorated himself, as the woman did, in order to be an ornament.
His status at court, like hers, was determined What Fashion Strictly Divided 13 by appearance. Entirely in the tradition of republican discourse, Alewyn attributes this confusion of spheres to the nobilitys loss of power. Since the nobility was no longer what it once had been, nothing else remained for it but to play as if, to make believe.
Such a standpoint completely overlooks the fact that the feudal nobility of the Renaissance, which clothed itself no less magnicently than its courtly successors, is immune to any argument based on deprivation of power. One thinks of the tight velvet trousers, the full feathered hats, the expensively embroidered jerkins of velvet and silk and the colorful and diverse patterns of the codpieces.
Historians such as Alewyn decode the epoch before the historical shift according to the standards of our contemporary codes of gender and representation. Lacans dictum that the parade of the masculine, virile display itself appears as feminine is as correct for the bourgeois epoch as it is false for the feudal epoch.
The constitutive social divide no longer opposes the noble and the non-noble, but rather the feminine and the masculine. Here noble has become a metaphor for the appearance of power. The bourgeoisie uses its women to exhibit the castration of the nobility.
The all-determining opposition that constitutes sexual difference is now that of authentic and inauthentic. Men are they are someone, they are authentic, real; women on the other hand lack essence and are sheer appearance, artificial, inauthentic.
Fashion appears as something that is excluded from the apparently non-rhetorical authenticity of the bourgeois masculine collective. Drawing together femininity and nobility on the basis of their shared frivolity of appearance, it thus excludes them from the real world in which men dwell, securely enclosed within the institutions of masculinity.
As men increasingly assume the clothing of the professions, women begin to dress as women. Men produce, women consume; men work, women cultivate idleness and the social 14 Postfashion amusements.
Barbara Vinken Fashion Zeitgeist Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System 2005.pdf
What Fashion Strictly Divided 7 respect to the enigma of the other part, of the fashion-conscious dandy, Beauvoir concedes that the subject would require an independent inquiry. From Veblen and Simmel to Knig and Bourdieu, there has been a consistent even a desperate attempt to describe fashion as functioning to divide the classes and the sexes, and therefore to maintain the social order. But when it comes to concretely demonstrating this, the critical discourse always gets tangled up in the kind of contradictions that mark the examples taken from Veblen and de Beauvoir. One such stumbling block, which regularly reappears at critical moments in historical treatments of fashion, is the demi-monde, the world of the dandy and the coquette, which ourished at the birthplace of fashion in modern- ity, in the Second Empire of Napoleon III. Marx assigns a central role in his salvational scheme to this phenomenon.
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Fashion Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System