In 1863 Charles Baudelaire, wrote about the 'Painter of Modern Life' depicting the uniformity of male dress codes with its black suits, top hats and patent leather boots as having created 'a cortege of undertakers'. Whereas women's dress was constantly moving with the seasons and responding to passing styles, men's dress appeared remarkably static and unadorned.
Drawing on the writings of Charles Baudelaire and Mallarmé and on the paintings of Constantin Guys and Edouard Manet, the lecture will examine the visual representation and cultural meanings of the habit noir. It will also consider the related British male types of the dandy and the swell. Were men in the nineteenth century really just a neutral backdrop to the ebb and flow of female fashion, or did men also engage in and explore sartorial style?
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/le-habit-noir-men-in-black
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