Monday, August 4, 2014

Fashion and French Politics

From New Republic:
Centuries before Hollande’s optical mishap, the French public was aware of, and quite concerned about, its leaders’ sartorial proclivities. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, whose book, Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, will be published by Yale University Press in the fall, told me that French politicians’ wardrobes have never been exempt from public scrutiny, in part because fashion has historically been such a prominent industry in France. Among the French, she said, there has long been an expectation that leaders should be wearing French-produced goods and a sense that no one in his right mind would even want to wear anything else.

Napoleon himself took great pride in wearing French-produced fabrics, and his great care for his wardrobe has been well-documented. According to The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire: 1789-1815, the “survival and success” of Lyon’s textile industry, which had produced the rich, embroidered silks of his coronation, “became emblematic of Napoleon’s policy toward French industry.” (The “extraordinary pageantry” of the entire ceremony, fashion included, we are assured, “served Napoleon’s goals well.”)

Louis XVI, too, was well aware of the political significance of his dress. He hosted balls whose dress codes were explicitly modeled after the bright, feathered fashions of the popular reign of Henri IV“a very calculated propaganda move,” Chrisman-Campbell said. (Read more.)

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