Fashion, Femininity and Modernity in the first half of the twentieth century
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Rooted in feminist theory “Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Femininity and Modernity” is an exploration of fashion and femininity in the first half of the twentieth century. Author Ilya Parkins, Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada, utilized primary sources to delve into the feminine representations in the work of Paul Poiret, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Christian Dior. While a deep knowledge of feminist theory is not necessary to understand the main points made by Parkins in “Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli,” a general knowledge of women’s studies may enable the reader a better grasp of the intricate details layered throughout.
Reading as an academic paper, “Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli” is divided into four main chapters book-ended with an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction lays groundwork, familiarizing the readers with the different theories referenced throughout the book, as well as the methodology used by the author. Following the introduction, an individual chapter is devoted to each designer. They are hearty investigations into their individual viewpoints on fashion, femininity and modernity.
Parkins relyed mainly on their writing and autobiographies to investigated Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli’s viewpoints and attitudes toward modernity and femininity. Her readers may benefit from exploring these autobiographies to further understand the designer’s thinking.
With his Directoire collection – designed around 1906 – Poiret intended to free women from the need to wear corsets. I was interested to read that despite his forward attitude, Poiret felt anxious about provoking a change in feminine ideals that he feared, might exclude him from the fashion world.
Schiaparelli’s unique position, compared to that of Poiret and Dior, as a female designer creating clothes for female customers made for a thought-provoking chapter and added another layer of interest to the topic.
Personally, I found the chapter on Christian Dior to be the most interesting in particular when addressing the subject of Dior and his models. Rich in information and analysis Parkins thought-provoking approach encourages the reader to dig deeper into Dior relationship with modern femininity.
The conclusion of “Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli” nicely ties together the previous chapters, offering a concise and well-written summary of the main points developed throughout the book.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading “Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Femininity, and Modernity” by Ilya Parkins. With my limited knowledge regarding women’s studies, I greatly appreciated the introduction, which set the groundwork for the ensuing analysis of the designers and their relationships with femininity and modernity. My interest in the topic has been sparked, and I am planning to read each designer’s autobiographies to further investigate the points brought forth by Parkins. I believe that anyone with an interest in either of these designers, or the topics of femininity and modernity would find the text compelling.
Paperback, 152 pages, 24 images
231 x 155 mm
Published September 2012