Problems in Art of the Nineteenth Century: "Costume, Fabric, Fashion: Picturing Femininity"
T 1:00-4:00pm
270 Tappan
3 Credit Seminar. Meets with WOMEN'S STUDIES 698.002

The seminar explores representations of costume, fabric, and fashion in art and visual culture of the modern period, particularly in Europe. (Readings focus on the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries). Clothing is approached as an aspect of material culture that is directly linked to social behavior and its visual representation. The social, symbolic, and psychological aspects of clothing conveyed in pictures and other forms of imagery will be considered, along with clothing's relation to economic consumption. The period saw a shift from an early modern emphasis on visible, external signs of social identity to a modern emphasis on an internally-defined self, which tended to conceive of clothing as a false or variable identity. Methods of manufacturing clothing simultaneously shifted from tailor- to ready-made, while the gendered connotations of "fashion" also changed. Themes addressed in the course include the particular importance of fashion in staging representations of female subjects in works of fine art; the element of agency at work in the consumption, wearing, and representation of costume; the accessory as an early form of commodity consumption in the fashion realm; the coupling of art and industry during the period, as evidenced in links between the textile trade, fashion trade, fashion press, and fine art; and the role of historical and exotic costume in signifying cultural difference.

The seminar is coordinated with a special interdisciplinary workshop "More than Fashion: The Journal des Dames et des Modes (1797-1839)," which will feature papers by visiting scholars and take place on April 3, 2009. Focusing on an influential, illustrated fashion journal published during the first half of the nineteenth century, the workshop aims to bring out the journal's role as a social educator, particularly its modeling of gender roles. With support from the Rackham Graduate School, a related half-day session has been organized for seminar students, who are invited to present papers to workshop participants for comment and discussion.

Readings include Daniel Roche, The Culture of Clothing; Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things, 1986; J. C. Flugel, The Psychology of Clothes, 1930; and John Styles, The Dress of the People, 2007.