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date: 30 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Fashion is perhaps the ultimate decadent medium: fashionable dress has been critiqued by moralists for extravagance, luxury, and sexual licentiousness since classical times. This chapter focuses on fashion since the Industrial Revolution, when mass textile production and the rapid dissemination of Parisian styles across Europe and America enabled the development of a rapidly changing fashion system. It shows how, within emergent modernity, decadent dress was characterized by its embrace of artifice; this reached its apotheosis in dandyism and the cult of extraordinary individuality, whereby sartorial expression is used to make the body into a work of art. The chapter examines the gendering of decadent fashion and the figure of the female dandy; and finally appraises the contemporary fashion industry’s embrace of beauty in decay. It concludes that far from an evacuation of moral responsibility, the decadence of fashion may be a means of astute political commentary.

Keywords: artifice, beauty, class, cosmetics, dandyism, dress, fashion, gender, race, style

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