A Strategic Pause
All good writers of novels or lively nonfiction know that it’s crucial to pause their story at a certain point. Perhaps this can apply to the blogger, too. What have we learned so far in examining the path of Western fashion from antiquity to the nineteenth century? We know that clothing was modified for important class distinctions, that masculine bodies were celebrated while feminine bodies had to be concealed beneath numerous draperies, and men were given greater leeway with fashion. We’ve seen that rulers and their nobles protected the use of fine fashions as their prerogative, enacting sumptuary laws when necessary to enforce that privilege, despite those laws being broken again and again. Fashion could be used for social mobility, ideological identity, and social conformity. Fashion could even signal social control or a break with convention. I never intended to impose a long-winded costume history lesson on you readers. What I want to get across is the fact that as we grow closer to our modern era, fashion changes in several important respects. Fashion trends grow closer together, signaling quicker changes in popular culture. Men settle on a unified look, while women seek variety in a multiplicity of forms. Clothes now develop their own language. I want to resume my story of fashion by looking more closely at the nineteenth century when everything changed. And most of all, let’s have fun! When we start scrutinizing what happened to clothing in the 1800s, our contemporary choices look better and better. Are we going somewhere? Yes. All my efforts to explore the rise of modern clothing and fashion in last year’s posts will be brought home by the discoveries we make in the months ahead. As this excellent title in the Library collection suggests, we need to learn more about Dress, adornment, and the social order so that we may understand our own craving for fashion better. We also need to see exactly what kinds of dress we freed ourselves from in order to become what we are now. And what we are now can be epitomized by the most recent cover of Vogue featuring our lovely First Lady. And, like any hopeful blogger, I’d love to draw reactions out of you as I proceed with this new story… p.s. Happy Saint Valentine’s Day! I’m keeping an eye on New York Fashion Week, where the parties and glitz have been toned down, along with expectations.