Fashion in Modernity
554 pp., 7 x 9 in,
- Published: August 23, 2002
- Published: December 20, 2000
The history of modernity written as a philosophy if fashion, set in the cultural framework of Paris.
Far from being a frivolous subject, fashion is the supreme expression of the contemporary spirit. Sartorial elements embody the pace and rhythm of modern society and culture as few other ideas or commodities do. Indeed, the hallmarks of la modernité found their most immediate reflection in la mode. But no one until now has attempted a rigorous analysis of fashion, on a par with attempts to construct a philosophy of art, music, or literature. In this book Ulrich Lehmann sets out to do just that. He explores the interplay between philosophical ideas and fashion, reading texts and textiles, discourse and dresses, to investigate modernity from a variety of perspectives: artistic, philosophical, sociological, and historical. The stage for this interplay between intellectual concept and sartorial expression is Parisian society from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Lehmann focuses on a core of pivotal individuals, beginning with Charles Baudelaire in the 1850s, continuing with Stéphane Mallarmé and Georg Simmel, and arriving at Walter Benjamin, Louis Aragon, and André Breton almost a century later. The book's title comes from Benjamin's use of the German word Tigersprung (tiger's leap) to describe fashion's leap into the past to create an ever-changing present. Lehmann focuses in particular on Benjamin's Arcades Project as an unfinished work on the philosophy of fashion. He also looks at the role of fashion in the work of the Dadaists and surrealists, who used clothes and accessories as simulacra for the human body and mind.Fashion, according to Lehmann, does not just reflect social change but is a social force in its own right. In creating the perfect expression of the contemporary spirit—by drawing on the past—fashion excels at anticipating things to come.
Would that more books about modernity and modernism had the zip, the breadth, and the passion of this one! Ulrich Lehmann has leapt, with brio, from Baudelaire and Gautier through Mallarmean fields and folds, Simmel and Benjamin, theory and politics, trains and top hats, on to the surrealizing of fashion.
Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor, Graduate School, City University of New York; author of The Surrealist Look, and trnaslator, The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud by Jacques Derrida and Paule Thevenin
Tigersprung changes the way we think about modern experience by demonstrating that fashion has been central rather than peripheral to the conceptualization of modernity by some of the most compelling and influential artists, writers, and intellectuals of the past 150 years.
Nancy J. Troy, Department of Art History, University of Southern California