He sees more than just an industry, giving voice to the larger cultural phenomenon fashion has become. How have ideas about hygiene and comfort influenced the direction of style? How does dress create identity and status? Framing details of dandies, flappers, and punks within a clear overview of their respective periods, Breward takes a second look and casts everyday wear in a much different light. In addition to all the glitz and glamour, the book includes suggestions for further reading, a timeline marking important events in fashion, and a list of relevant museums and galleries. In all, it is the most valuable, accessible, and modern text on fashion today.

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December 18, Patrick T Reardon 0 Well, what is fashion? Is it the ritualistic adorning of the body by a subject whose sartorial actions relate to predominant aesthetic and sociological contexts? Or is it the limp textile construction, replicated according to body size and spending power, which hangs on the rail of a boutique, given meaning and relevance for the potential consumer by its reproduction of the promotional images of a magazine?

For his book, he writes, the most productive approach is to consider all three and their inter-relationships, a complicated undertaking. The three aspects of fashion To this end, Fashion is in three parts.

The second has to do with the promotion of fashion through advertising, film, the fashion press and celebrities as well as the places and ways apparel is sold. In the third section, Breward examines how and why people choose to dress the way they do and where they look for inspiration — to the fashion capitals of Paris, London, New York and Milan, and to dandies and bohemians, people whose clothing is meant by them to send a statement of some sort.

Still, you get it. A couple pages later, he adds: Fashion is presented here as a process which moves through several modes of action and experience, passing from the designer, through the manufacturer, the advertiser, and the retailer, and on to the consumer, and sometimes linking back from consumer to designer, or even turning in reverse….

Of course, just as cooking is more than chemistry, fashion is more than the techniques of connecting pieces of fabric and other elements into a wearable item. All fashion is art in the sense that it is an image being offered and being worn as a personal expression of taste and style. The grunge musicians of the s with their flannels were making a statement, just as is the man who wears a tuxedo.

Similarly, in a discussion of the career of Elsa Schiaparelli, he writes: From the late s until the outbreak of war Schiaparelli collaborated with Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Christian Benard, and Van Dongen to produce a succession of unsettling thematic collections which traded on the shock of unlikely connections and a fetishistic attention to the de-contextualized details. Zips, lips, newsprint, hair, hands, mirrors, and astrological symbols stretched across vividly colored torsos, whilst costume jewelry and millinery in the guise of shoes, sweets, toys, and bric-a-brac framed the face.

Shock is part of the language and attraction of fashion — the shock of change, of course, but also the shock of transgressively breaking bounds. Scandal also helps, especially as boundaries shift: Social and sexual scandal frequently went hand-in-hand with the promotion of fashion, usefully bracketing a desire for luxury and novelty with a new moral code in which self-love and rapid gratification were no longer identified as being especially sinful, but instead rather modish.

The dandy and the bohemian In fashion, dandies have been influential by pushing the limits from within the power elite, refusing the blend with the crowd, but retaining affiliation with and membership in the elite. Working in the same way from outside the elite have been the bohemians who do not seek affiliation with the elite, but offer a direct challenge to the status quo. Standing in opposition to the controlled and artificial posturing of the aristocratic dandy, the shambolic but fiercely honest gestures of the bohemian have revealed the manner in which fashion can communicate individual passions and authentic cultural meanings as effectively as it contrives to disguise or mold them.

Both evolved in the early nineteenth century as a means of negotiating the bewildering nature of city life with its undifferentiated crowds of strangers and unsettling capacity for reversing traditional social hierarchies. Thick Spanish black almost velvety, a night without stars, which makes the ordinary black seem almost grey.

Fashion is about clothing.


Book review: “Fashion” by Christopher Breward



Fashion (Oxford History of Art) by Christopher Breward


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