There are a number of great quotes to be found in The Rise of Fashion: A Reader, a compilation in the Art Department. Short essays or extracts from larger works by famous intellectuals and scholars can be found here. I looked at Oscar Wilde’s contribution to this anthology. Wilde (1854-1900) was famous for so many things, but what many people most remember is his biting wit.
His piece, “The Suitability of Dress,” from 1882, was written years before his notorious trials, conviction, and tragic physical breakdown. The opening lines remind me of the late William F. Buckley in full spate:
“Nothing, in general, bewilders or tortures the female mind more than the endeavor to establish some kind of harmonic relation between the law of the fashion book and the law of life, the one being for the idler, the other for the worker. Yet with some resolute self-assertion and heroic defiance of conventional prejudice, a compromise might be effected, the result being increased comfort to the workers in life’s thorny paths without even the sacrifice of beauty.”