Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century / Edition 1

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Overview

When department stores like Le Bon Marché first opened their doors in mid-nineteenth-century Paris, shoppers were offered more than racks of ready-made frock coats and crinolines. They were given the chance to acquire a lifestyle as well--that of the bourgeoisie. Wearing proper clothing encouraged proper behavior, went the prevailing belief.

Available now for the first time in English, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie was one of the first extensive studies to explain a culture's sociology through the seemingly simple issue of the choice of clothing. Philippe Perrot shows, through a delightful tour of the rise of the ready-made fashion industry in France, how clothing can not only reflect but also inculcate beliefs, values, and aspirations. By the middle of the century, men were prompted to disdain the decadent and gaudy colors of the pre-Revolutionary period and wear unrelievedly black frock coats suitable to the manly and serious world of commerce. Their wives and daughters, on the other hand, adorned themselves in bright colors and often uncomfortable and impractical laces and petticoats, to signal the status of their family. The consumer pastime of shopping was born, as women spent their spare hours keeping up their middle-class appearance, or creating one by judicious purchases.

As Paris became the fashion capital and bourgeois modes of dress and their inherent attitudes became the ruling lifestyle of Western Europe and America, clothing and its "civilizing" tendencies were imported to non-Western colonies as well. In the face of what Perrot calls this "leveling process," the upper classes tried to maintain their stature and right to elegance by supporting what became the high fashion industry. Richly detailed, entertaining, and provocative, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie reveals to us the sources of many of our contemporary rules of fashion and etiquette.

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Editorial Reviews

Liberation
The overall thesis that emerges is both limpid and profound; as far as clothing is concerned, we still belong to the nineteenth century.
Le Nouvel observateur
[Perrot] glides through the dressing rooms and bedrooms of the Second Empire, inspects armoires, haunts the department stores and the fitting rooms of couturiers and tailors, lives with fashionable women and tarts, bankers, and 10-franc-a-month shop assistants.
Sunday Telegraph
Perrot puts a serious and persuasive case for the importance of clothing to understanding the aesthetic and moral values of the nineteenth-century middle-class. . . . Immensely learned, yet written with great delicacy and lightness of touch, it remains the best account available of the meaning, and eventual triumph, of the bourgeois trouser—that most resilient and universal survival of nineteenth-century Europe's dominance of the globe.
— John Adamson
Modern & Contemporary France
A fascinating book: not so much a history of clothing, as a history of French society seen through its fashions and its clothes.
— Sharif Gemie
Sunday Times
Fashion history is not about hemlines, it is about the nuts and bolts of living. It is because he accepts this fact that Perrot's examination of a period so germane to our own is valuable.
— Colin McDowell
The Times Literary Supplement
A fascinating and amusing examination of social attitudes.
Libération

The overall thesis that emerges is both limpid and profound; as far as clothing is concerned, we still belong to the nineteenth century.
Sunday Telegraph - John Adamson
Perrot puts a serious and persuasive case for the importance of clothing to understanding the aesthetic and moral values of the nineteenth-century middle-class. . . . Immensely learned, yet written with great delicacy and lightness of touch, it remains the best account available of the meaning, and eventual triumph, of the bourgeois trouser—that most resilient and universal survival of nineteenth-century Europe's dominance of the globe.
Modern & Contemporary France - Sharif Gemie
A fascinating book: not so much a history of clothing, as a history of French society seen through its fashions and its clothes.
Sunday Times - Colin McDowell
Fashion history is not about hemlines, it is about the nuts and bolts of living. It is because he accepts this fact that Perrot's examination of a period so germane to our own is valuable.
From the Publisher

"A fascinating and amusing examination of social attitudes."--The Times Literary Supplement

"The overall thesis that emerges is both limpid and profound; as far as clothing is concerned, we still belong to the nineteenth century."--Libération

"[Perrot] glides through the dressing rooms and bedrooms of the Second Empire, inspects armoires, haunts the department stores and the fitting rooms of couturiers and tailors, lives with fashionable women and tarts, bankers, and 10-franc-a-month shop assistants."--Le Nouvel observateur

"Perrot puts a serious and persuasive case for the importance of clothing to understanding the aesthetic and moral values of the nineteenth-century middle-class. . . . Immensely learned, yet written with great delicacy and lightness of touch, it remains the best account available of the meaning, and eventual triumph, of the bourgeois trouser--that most resilient and universal survival of nineteenth-century Europe's dominance of the globe."--John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

"A fascinating book: not so much a history of clothing, as a history of French society seen through its fashions and its clothes."--Sharif Gemie, Modern & Contemporary France

"Fashion history is not about hemlines, it is about the nuts and bolts of living. It is because he accepts this fact that Perrot's examination of a period so germane to our own is valuable."--Colin McDowell, Sunday Times (London)

Library Journal
Originally published in French in 1981, this book delves deeply into the cultural significance of 19th-century ``consumption and behavior in dress.'' Extensive research provides rich details and an entertaining tour into the structure and habits of a stratified society where ``clothing was a science which mirrored one's social and economic status and propriety was an obsesssion.'' Dress and Gender Berg Pub., 1993, edited by Ruth Barnes and Joanne B. Eichner, addresses the topic within a multicultural context; Patricia Cunningham and Susan Lob's Dress and Popular Culture Bowling Green Univ. Pr., 1991 provides studies into clothing icons of 19th- and 20th-century America. Perrot's book traces the rise of the French ready-made fashion industry, revealing not only the development of consumer shopping but the sources of many inherited rules of contemporary fashion and etiquette. Recommended for academic collections in fashion, design,women's cultural history.-Vicki Gadberry, Mars Hill Coll. Lib., N.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691000817
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/9/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Introduction 3
I Toward a History of Appearances 6
II Clothing's Old and New Regimes 15
III The Vestimentary Landscape of the Nineteenth Century 26
IV Traditional Trades and the Rise of Ready-Made Clothing 36
V The Department Store and the Spread of Bourgeois Clothing 58
VI New Pretensions, New Distinctions 80
VII The Imperatives of Propriety 87
VIII Deviations from the Norm 124
IX Invisible Clothing 143
X The Circulation of Fashions 167
Conclusion 189
Notes 193
Bibliography 253
Index 267
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