Outfitting Paris: Fashion, Space, and the Body in Nineteenth-Century French Literature and Culture
This dissertation argues that the literary and cultural history of nineteenth-century Paris must be re-envisaged in the context of fashion as a spatial and embodied practice. While existing scholarship has focused on the role of fashion in emerging consumer culture, I focus instead on how clothing mediated bodily and urban knowledge. With the rise of department stores, the fashion press, and textile innovations in mid-nineteenth-century France, fashion became synonymous with the modern urban experience. Concomitantly with the emergence of the modern fashion system, the city of Paris was itself refashioned through vast urbanization projects. This metropolitan redesign created new points of intersection between the dressed body and the city. I argue that writers during the Second Empire and early Third Republic reframed fashion as a form of embodied space. Balancing close readings of canonical texts, Charles Baudelaire’s “À une passante” and Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, for example, with lesser known works, including Gustave Flaubert’s Le Château des cœurs and Stéphane Mallarmé’s journal La Dernière mode, alongside fashion journals and physical garments themselves, I propose that the fashioned body was inextricably tethered to conceptions of urban space in the nineteenth-century French cultural imaginary.
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