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Capturing Modern Life

Women in their Time

Dress demarcated the social and gender distinctions which embodied Baudelaire and Guys' "modern life" in a visual sense. In Deus Femmes aux Manchons, Guys has used details of fashionable dress to represent the transient fashions, and therefore modernity, of the early 1860s. The figures both wear fur trimmed jackets over their crinolines which gives them the characteristic silhouette of fashionable female dress during this period, the skirt forming the base of a triangular shape and the spoon-shaped bonnet forming the apex with an upturned brim. The bonnets are worn at the back of the head and the skirts form a dome shape, muffs are still fairly large. During the 1860s skirts gradually became flatter at the front, with the main bulk of fabric concentrated at the back of the garment. Muffs, when carried, decreased in size throughout the 1860s. Guys was an accurate observer who captured minute changes in fashion because they represented changes in modern life. In this image, the position of the bonnets, the shape of the skirts and size of the accessories are all visual signifiers that date the image to the early 1860s.

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