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The Rise of Fashion

A Reader

2004

Daniel Leonhard Purdy, editor
Introduction by Daniel Leonhard Purdy

The Rise of Fashion

A remarkable anthology of key writings that parallels the history of fashion with modern life

Daniel Leonhard Purdy brings together writings from the Enlightenment to the twentieth century that explore fashion as an expression of modernity. From critiques of aristocratic excess to accounts of fashion’s influence on our ideals of masculinity or femininity, this reader includes works by philosophers (Carlyle, Rousseau), social theorists (Herbert Spencer, Veblen), writers (Goethe, Baudelaire, Wilde), and critics (Karl Kraus, Simone de Beauvoir).

Daniel Purdy provides insight into fashion through the writings of prominent philosophers, social theorists, and scholars in arts and letters. Given the prominence of the authors of these essays, and their obvious concern for fashion, it is most surprising that the study of fashion continues to be regarded with suspicion and thus remains largely on the sidelines of serious academic studies. This book is yet another recent step in alleviating that point of view.

Patricia A. Cunningham, Journal of Popular Culture

Writing more than a century before Vogue, no less a figure than G. W. F. Hegel reviewed the fashion of his day and found it wanting because, in becoming outmoded so quickly, it drew attention away from the timeless beauty of the human form. And Hegel is not unique among philosophers in his interest in fashion’s role; for more than 250 years, social thinkers have considered fashion—its transitive nature, the conformity it inspires, the vast range of its influence—as a defining feature of modern life.

In The Rise of Fashion, Daniel Leonhard Purdy brings together key writings from the Enlightenment to the twentieth century that explore fashion as the ultimate expression of modernity. Making available many previously untranslated or otherwise unfamiliar works from French, German, and English, Purdy establishes an extraordinary lineage of fashion commentary dating back to Mandeville and Voltaire, which laid the groundwork for the writings on commodity culture of Adorno, Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School. From critiques of aristocratic excess to accounts of fashion’s influence on our ideals of masculinity or femininity, from the figure of the dandy and the eroticism of clothing to the class politics of fashion, this landmark reader includes works by philosophers (Carlyle, Rousseau, Georg Simmel) and social theorists (Herbert Spencer, Veblen), as well as writers (Goethe, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Wilde) and critics (Karl Kraus, Adolf Loos, Simone de Beauvoir).

Collecting and contextualizing many of the earliest and most significant formulations of fashion theory, The Rise of Fashion provocatively examines the proposition that to be modern is to be fashionable.

The Rise of Fashion

Daniel Leonhard Purdy is associate professor of German at Pennsylvania State University and the author of The Tyranny of Elegance: Consumer Cosmopolitanism in the Era of Goethe.

The Rise of Fashion

Daniel Purdy provides insight into fashion through the writings of prominent philosophers, social theorists, and scholars in arts and letters. Given the prominence of the authors of these essays, and their obvious concern for fashion, it is most surprising that the study of fashion continues to be regarded with suspicion and thus remains largely on the sidelines of serious academic studies. This book is yet another recent step in alleviating that point of view.

Patricia A. Cunningham, Journal of Popular Culture

An important compilation for any college-level fashion department, The Rise of Fashion will also hold immense interest for professional fashion designers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in fashion history.

Wisconsin Bookwatch

For Purdy, fashion, in a sense, is the essential postmodern gesture: the self-conscious adopting of styles without the specific ideological referents. Overall, the essays selected give an excellent overview of the range of fashion paradigms.

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