Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion

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4to, illustrated with color plates, Pictorial dustwrapper in fresh mylar sleeve. 209pp

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Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion places the iconic New York figure and her writing in the context of fashion history and shows how dress lies at the very center of her thinking about art and culture. The study traces American patronage of the Paris couture houses from Worth and Doucet through Poiret and Chanel and places Wharton’s characters in these establishments and garments to offer fresh readings of her well-known novels. Less known are Wharton’s knowledge of and involvement in the craft of garment making in her tales of seamstresses, milliners, and textile workers, as well as in her creation of workshops in Paris during the First World War to employ Belgian and French seamstresses and promote the value of handmade garments in a world given to machine-driven uniformity of design and labor. Pointing the way toward further research and inquiry, Katherine Joslin has produced a truly interdisciplinary work that combines the best of literary criticism with an infectious love and appreciation of material culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A unique, interdisciplinary study, Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion offers a strong argument for further integration of literary and material culture studies, and will appeal to historians of various disciplines and Wharton aficionados alike.”—The Magazine Antiques

“That a book on Wharton and fashion should be as gorgeous as this one is only fitting. The reprints of paintings and photographs of dresses from museum collections and of Wharton wearing a variety of fashions enhance the reader’s sense of the impact of material culture on Wharton’s fiction. The book is concerned not simply with the clothes that fictional and real women wore during this period but also with the production and labor associated with the garment industry. Offering intriguing details about turn-of-the-century apparel as well as an entirely new way to understand Wharton—one turning on the symbolic resonance of dress—this book offers up a fascinating approach to Wharton’s astute chronicle of culture. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“In addition to her compelling readings of the clothing that appears in, or is contemporary to, Wharton’s works, Joslin also provides helpful context about the history of dress design and specific designers invoked by Wharton (including Jacques Doucet, Charles Frederick Worth, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, and Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel) and analyzes the cultural significance of fashion design, dress reform, and the garment industry. . . . Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion is a well-conceived and well-written analysis of a topic central to Wharton’s oeuvre. Scholars, students, and general readers will welcome this long overdue and interesting study, which breaks important new ground in Wharton scholarship and in cultural criticism.” —Modern Fiction Studies

““When dealing either with Wharton’s fiction or with items of period clothing, Joslin is perceptive and sometimes markedly eloquent. Her readings of the author’s life in and through clothes to emphasize Wharton’s simultaneous welcoming of and resistance to aspects of modernity are also persuasive.”—Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584657798
  • Publisher: University of New Hampshire Press
  • Publication date: 11/10/2009
  • Series: Becoming Modern/Reading Dress
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHERINE JOSLIN is a professor of English at Western Michigan University. She is the author of Jane Addams, a Writer’s Life and Edith Wharton (Women Writer’s Series). Publication supported by the Coby Foundation, Ltd.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Remnant and Meaning – “. . . the sweep and amplitude of the great artist’s stroke . . .”
Dressing Up – “. . . my newest Doucet dress . . . it was pretty . . .”
The Underside of Fashion – “. . . the utensils of their art . . .”
Philanthropy and Progress – “. . . thin shoulders in shapeless gingham . . .”
Desire in the Marketplace – “What you want is the home-made article.”
The Cut of a Gown – “Why not make one’s own fashions?”
Dressing for Middle Age – “—don’t try to make me look like a flapper.”
Democracy and Dress – “. . . ‘the American girl,’ the world’s highest achievement. . . .”
Conclusion: The Costume Side – “—the small rest!—will, I think, be interested in the ‘costume’ side . . .”

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