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Expressionism in the Discourse of Fashion

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The focus of this article is Maria Martin's essay entitled “Fashion and the Bourgeois Citizen” that appeared in the journal Die Aktion in 1917. Martin annexed fashion to expressionism, and her essay appears prescient - by 1920, evidence suggests that expressionism had become part of mass culture. This article reveals how it was in Germany that fashion's central place within modern life was most perceptively theorized by intellectuals, who believed fashion to be the key to understanding the character of the new consumer economy that capitalism was creating at the turn of the century. Associations of fashion with crass commercialism, abandonment of values, and prostitution marked the early literature of expressionism. However, new links were formed during World War I through Otto Haas-Heye's exhibitions, which created relationships between the avant-garde and elite society. This represented an important exchange between expressionist art and fashion, which adds a new dimension to our understanding of expressionism and highlights the importance of an alternative modernism at the beginning of the century. Simmons concludes that Martin's essay helps reveal an impulse that developed strong links to the creative and economic practice of fashion through Haas-Heye's efforts. This opens awareness to aspects within the larger movement, such as applied arts, that were also linked to cultural constructions of the feminine.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/136270400779572046

Publication date: February 1, 2000

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
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