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Fashion Discourses in France: Towards a Critical Historiography.

Academic research

Fashion Discourses in France: Towards a Critical Historiography

Emilie Hammen

This article explores the intersection of the history of fashion in France and the history of ideas. The historiographical issues raised by this discussion shed light on established canons pertaining to the field of fashion history in France and lead to the identification of methodologies and their variable attention to visual or textual sources. Focusing first on the dominance of visuality in the writing of French fashion history, from its early authors to the mid-twentieth century, we then consider the perspectives offered by a history of the idea of fashion, voluntarily removed from a history of the objects and images of fashion. Drawing from the Foucauldian concept of discourse, we finally seek to understand how scholars and historians have forged definitions of ‘fashion discourses’ and how these have informed their own practices of the writing of history.

The last part of this article attempts to apply the theoretical tools identified previously to a specific case study. Looking at a pivotal moment in France’s cultural, social and political history, we try to grasp the epistemological evolution of the idea of fashion from the 1820s to the 1840s.

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