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Capturing Modern Life

Can fashion encapsulate the difference between absolute and ephemeral beauty? Nicola Harding on Constantin Guys and the Language of Dress

Nicola Harding

Introduction: Painting Modern Life

Women in their Time

Learning Femininity

The Grisette

The Language of the Lorette

The Language of "Modern Life"


Aigrette: A decorative tuft of feathers, flowers or jewels

Charles Baudelaire: French critic and writer (1821-1867)

Charles Blanc: French art critic (1813-1882). Author of influential texts on colour and ornament

Chignon: A hairstyle consisting of a large bunch or coil of natural and artificial hair worn at the back of the head and nape of the neck and dressed over a pad

Crinoline: A petticoat shaped by steel, whalebone or cane, forming a dome shape

Grisette: A female worker in the garment industry at a menial level, often forced into prostitution by poor economic conditions

Constantin Guys: French draughtsman, best known for his sketches and wash drawings of society life (1802-1892)

Lorette: A modestly kept woman, positioned between a grisette and a courtesan

Manchons: Fur cuffs and a matching muff

Panniers: Overskirt gathered into a puff at hip level

Pantalettes: Loose drawers worn under the skirt to hide the lower leg, sometimes consisting of two tubes of material tied at the knee

Reading list

Jane Ashelford, The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914 , pub. The National Trust, 20/06/1996 www.amazon.co.uk

Charles Baudelaire, Jonathan Maine (Editor), The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, pub. Phaidon Press, 01/08/1995 www.amazon.co.uk

Alison Gernsheim, Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey, pub. Dover Publications, 01/01/1982 www.amazon.co.uk

Susan Griffin, Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues, pub. Pan, 07/03/2003 www.amazon.co.uk

Ulrich Lehmann, Tigersprung: Fashion in Modernity, pub. The MIT Press, 01/10/2002 www.amazon.co.uk

Aileen Ribeiro, Dress and Morality, pub. Berg Publishers, 25/10/2003 www.amazon.co.uk

Author's Biography

Nicola Harding graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in History of Art and English Literature. She has just completed the MA in History of Dress at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

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