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Satires of fashionable clothing and literature in nineteenth-century Russia

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In early nineteenth-century Russia the categories of fashionable clothing and fashionable literature emerged side by side, which gave critics of the corresponding industries a convenient discourse for satirizing the latter in terms of the former. The writings and drawings this article examines show that the enmeshment of these two feminine economies endured for decades as a productive trope despite changes in the gendering of the garment industry around mid-century. Just as Roland Barthes asserted the legibility of fashion as a semiotic system, this study treats verbal and visual representations of clothing as legible texts that are open to interpretation. It also probes the problematic relationship among body, text and clothing in representations where the clothing is not worn on the body but rather becomes a body through the literary device of personification.
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Keywords: fashionable clothing; fashionable literature; feminine economies; literary costumes; satire; textual costumes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Illinois at Chicago

Publication date: December 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • We all wear clothes. We are all therefore invested at some level in the production and consumption of clothing. This journal intends to embrace issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing [and dressing] us all. Increasingly, as we all become accomplished semioticians, clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour, and sartorial norms dictate socio-cultural appropriateness. Following the rise of fashion theory, on an everyday level, we all understand that our clothes 'say' something about us, about our times, nation, system of values. Yet clothing is not fashion; clothing is a term derivative from 'cloth', to cover the body, whereas fashion alludes to the glamorous, the ephemeral and the avant garde. We wear clothes, but imagine fashion-an unattainable ideal.
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