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Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion

Ilya Parkins

Publication Year: 2012

Grounded in the ubiquitous, ever-changing matter of fashion, Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion places women at the heart of modern culture. Rich and cohesive, this collection demonstrates how fashion shaped and emerged from diverse cultures of femininity and modernity. By recovering fashion as a dynamic and far-reaching force in culture and politics, the volume examines the nuanced and conflicted terrain of femininity from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Revealing the inextricability of fashion from modern life, the volume argues for placing gender, everyday life, and materiality at the forefront of our accounts of modernity.

This transatlantic and truly interdisciplinary collection, with an afterword by distinguished literary scholar Rita Felski, is also notable for its mix of established and emerging scholars. The contributors address diverse aspects of women's engagement with fashion in modernity, through such topics as Sapphic architecture, tea gowns, secondhand clothing, transnational identity, the coquette, nursing uniforms, and Harlem Renaissance photographs. Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion traces a unique and often surprising history of modernity and its entwinement with the gendered phenomenon of fashion.

Published by: University of New Hampshire Press

Series: Becoming Modern/Reading Dress


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, About the Series, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The editors are grateful to Paul Fortunato for inspiring their collaboration on this collection. We also thank Richard Pult of University Press of New England for his good humor, patience, and wisdom. We are indebted to the University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Internal Grants program. ..

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Introduction: Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion,

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pp. 1-16

In a concluding commentary on a 2008 essay collection on the figuration of the Modern Girl in the early twentieth century, historian Kathy Peiss asserts that “much of the literature on the Modern Girl in the United States [. . .] tends to separate leisure, consumption, and marketing from the domain of formal politics.”1 ...

I. Fashion and Relationships among Modern Women

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1. Fashioning Sapphic Architecture: Eileen Gray and Radclyffe Hall

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pp. 19-44

What would it mean to read Eileen Gray’s intricately designed, first built house, E.1027 (1928), as an architectural elaboration of sapphic fashion? This involves exploring the possibility that Gray, who has been read as an isolated figure, an exceptional woman among great masters, was both influenced by and contributed to a culture ...

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2. A Domesticated Exoticism: Fashioning Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Tea Gowns

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pp. 45-70

Victorian fashion has often been examined in terms of its regulation and control of the female body. The rules and rituals of fashionable dress have been perceived as limiting women’s choices rather than enabling them. Work in the fields of fashion history and theory have complicated this picture, ...

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3. Smart Clothes at Low Prices: Alliances and Negotiations in the British Interwar Secondhand Clothing Trade

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pp. 71-86

Advertisements for secondhand clothing dealers haunt the margins of British fashion periodicals of the 1920s and 1930s. Issues of Vogue and Eve report on the latest Paris models, but small notices remind contemporary readers that many women only came into contact with clothing designed by Chanel and Poiret ...

II. Fashion and Cultural Anxiety

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4. Fear of Fashion; or, How the Coquette Got Her Bad Name

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pp. 89-102

Victorian culture perfected a fashion double bind that is still with us today: women are required to invest themselves deeply in their appearance and then derided for this obsession.1 On the one hand, dressing well was declared to be women’s “duty,” their contribution to the pleasures of society.2...

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5. The Discerning Eye: Viewing the Mid-Victorian “Modern” Woman

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pp. 103-123

In the mid 1870s, the French painter Jean Béraud produced a work in oils entitled Parisienne un jour de pluie, place de la Concorde.1 The painting depicts a young woman, who appears to have paused momentarily in the street. With her left hand she holds a black umbrella over her shoulder and with her right, she lifts her skirts delicately off the wet ground. ...

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6. “Housewife or Harlot”: Art, Fashion, and Morality in the Paris Salon of 1868

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pp. 124-148

Exemplifying the nineteenth-century conception of gender roles as articulated by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s stark aphorism: “housewife or harlot,” Charles-François Marchal’s Pénélope and Phryné were the sensations of the Paris Salon of 1868 (figures 6.1 and 6.2).1 Pénélope and Phryné were hailed by critics as one of the great successes—and failures—of that year’s exhibition; ...

III. Fashion and the Materiality of Gender

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7. “Their Uniforms All Esthetic and Antiseptic”: Fashioning Modern Nursing Identity, 1870–1900

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pp. 151-179

Figure 7.1 is a photograph of the 1891 graduating students of the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing (TGH). The nurses look relaxed, each striking a different pose, some facing, leaning toward, or touching her neighbor. They wear very similar (although not identical) figure-hugging dresses over corseted torsos, ...

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8. The Face of Fashion: Race and Fantasy in James VanDerZee’s Photography and Jessie Fauset’s Fiction

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pp. 180-202

In 1926, W. E. B. Du Bois asked leading publishers, artists, and intellectuals, most of whom were associated with what came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance, to write responses to the question “The Negro in Art: How Shall He Be Portrayed?” The resulting essays were published in the NAACP’s Crisis magazine, of which Du Bois was the editor-in-chief. ...

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9. “More Than a Garment”: Edna Ferber and the Fashioning of Transnational Identity

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pp. 203-230

In an 1896 speech in which he argued for the drastic curtailment of immigration to the United States, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge voiced the fear that the unrestricted acceptance of foreigners would effect “a great and perilous change in the very fabric of our race.” While Lodge addressed the negative economic impact of immigration, ...

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pp. 231-238

While reading through this lucid and engaging group of essays, I was reminded anew of how much has changed in feminist studies and modernist studies over the last two decades. What once seemed outré is now acceptable, even self-evident; what once furrowed eyebrows and engendered looks of consternation is accepted with nary a murmur. ...

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pp. 239-240

Christina Bates is the curator for Ontario History at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. She curated the 2005–06 major exhibition, “A Caring Profession: Centuries of Nursing in Canada” and is co-editor of On All Frontiers: Four Centuries of Canadian Nursing (2005). ...


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pp. 241-244

Image Plates

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pp. 258-265

E-ISBN-13: 9781611682335
E-ISBN-10: 1611682339
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611680010

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Becoming Modern/Reading Dress