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Classic Chic

Music, Fashion, and Modernism

Mary E. Davis

Publication Year: 2006

Music and fashion: the deep connection between these two expressive worlds is firmly entrenched. Yet little attention has been paid to the association of sound and style in the early twentieth century—a period of remarkable and often parallel developments in both high fashion and the arts, including music. This beautifully written book, lavishly illustrated with fashion plates and photographs, explores the relationship between music and fashion, elegantly charting the importance of these arts to the rise of transatlantic modernism. Focusing on the emergence of the movement known as Neoclassicism, Mary E. Davis demonstrates that new aesthetic approaches were related to fashion in a manner that was perfectly attuned to the tastes of jazz-age sophisticates. Looking in particular at three couturiers—Paul Poiret, Germaine Bongard, and Coco Chanel—and three breakthrough fashion magazines—La Gazette du Bon Ton, Vanity Fair, and Vogue—Davis illuminates for the first time the ways in which fashion's imperatives of originality and constant change influenced composers such as Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Les Six. She also considers the role played by the Ballets Russes, and explores the contributions of artists including costume and set designer Léon Bakst, writer and director Jean Cocteau, Amédée Ozenfant, and Pablo Picasso. The first study to situate music in this rich context, Classic Chic demonstrates the profound importance of the linked endeavors of composition and couture to modernist thought. In addition to its innovative approach to this important moment in history, Davis's focus on the social aspects of the story makes the book a tremendously engaging read.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: California Studies in 20th-Century Music

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xvi

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pp. xviii-xx

This book was inspired by my mother, Dorothy Davis, who loved music, fashion, and all life’s pleasures. As a scholarly project, it began to take shape when I was a graduate student at Harvard University writing a dissertation on Erik Satie, which to my surprise revealed meaningful connections between composition and haute couture in the early twentieth century. ...

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1. Magazines, Music, and Modernism

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pp. 1-21

In the June 1923 issue of French Vogue, an unusual portrait of an unlikely subject appears amid the fashion plates. Accompanying a story about the adventures of a fictional Parisian named Palmyre, the drawing is fashion illustrator Eduardo Benito’s sketch of the “good musician” Erik Satie, “bearded and laughing like a faun.” ...

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2. Paul Poiret

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pp. 22-47

So chic was the Russian ballet that the line between stage and couture salon collapsed: in 1912 Diaghilev’s designer, Léon Bakst, offered his first fashion collection to the public. Working with couturiere Jeanne Paquin, Bakst created “street dresses” that recalled key Ballets Russes productions, evoking the mythological past of L’Après-midi d’un faune ...

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3. La Gazette Du Bon Ton

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pp. 48-92

“A new era, with new methods, needs new pages.” So declared La Gazette Du Bon Ton in its inaugural editorial, published in November 1912, and from this date until its demise in 1925 the magazine set the standard for elegance and luxury in the fashion press. Announcing on its masthead a devotion to “arts, fashions, and frivolities,” ...

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4. Germaine Bongard

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pp. 93-116

On an evening in late May 1916, a select group of Parisians gathered at fashion designer Germaine Bongard’s boutique on the stylish rue de Penthièvre. Like her more famous brother, Paul Poiret, Bongard maintained a gallery on the ground floor of her atelier, and on view were modernist paintings by Picasso, Léger, Matisse, and Modigliani.1 ...

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5. Vanity Fair

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pp. 117-152

Cocteau and Satie set to work on Parade almost immediately after their encounter at the Bongard fête in the spring of 1916, launching a stormy partnership that would last for nearly seven years. The fruits of this collaboration were few in number but bold in intent: the duo proposed to demonstrate that modernist art could be entertaining, fashionable, and fun. ...

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6. Coco Chanel

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pp. 153-201

“Fashion must come up from the streets.” So declared Coco Chanel, articulating a philosophy that would revolutionize style and change women’s dress forever. In an age when ornate embellishment and rigorous body control still set couture clothing apart from lesser modes of dress, Chanel dared to propose a radical new look based on simplicity and body-conscious naturalism. ...

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7. Vogue

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pp. 202-254

In May 1924, fashion was the focus at the Théâtre de la Cigale, a slummingly chic Montmartre music hall. Count Etienne de Beaumont had commandeered the venue for a series he billed as the “Soirée de Paris,” and he promised “choreographic and dramatic shows” with new works by some of the most sought-after artists of the day, ...


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pp. 255-286

Works Cited

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pp. 287-300

Illustration Credits

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pp. 301-308


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pp. 309-332

Production Notes

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p. 354-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780520941687
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520245426

Page Count: 361
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: California Studies in 20th-Century Music