Three women led a fashion revolution and turned themselves into international style celebrities.
Joséphine Bonaparte, future Empress of France; Térézia Tallien, the most beautiful woman in Europe; and Juliette Récamier, muse of intellectuals, had nothing left to lose. After surviving incarceration and forced incestuous marriage during the worst violence of the French Revolution of 1789, they dared sartorial revolt. Together, Joséphine and Térézia shed the underwear cages and massive, rigid garments that women had been obliged to wear for centuries. They slipped into light, mobile dresses, cropped their hair short, wrapped themselves in shawls, and championed the handbag. Juliette made the new style stand for individual liberty.
The erotic audacity of these fashion revolutionaries conquered Europe, starting with Napoleon. Everywhere a fashion magazine could reach, women imitated the news coming from Paris. It was the fastest and most total change in clothing history. Two centuries ahead of its time, it was rolled back after only a decade by misogynist rumors of obscene extravagance.
New evidence allows the real fashion revolution to be told. This is a story for our time: of a revolution that demanded universal human rights, of self-creation, of women empowering each other, and of transcendent glamor
About the Author
Anne Higonnet is professor of art history at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she teaches a course called “Clothing.” She has received many awards, including Guggenheim and Harvard Radcliffe Institute fellowships.
In this ideal text for fashion course curriculums and students of fashion history, Higonnet demonstrates her meticulous research in energetic prose that vibrantly captures the lives of these three revolutionary champions of chic European finery and women’s liberation. A passionately rendered history of three 'style mavericks' who ushered in a defining fashion revolution. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A deeply scholarly, impeccably researched book that’s also a genuine page-turner. Liberty, Equality, Fashion reveals how inextricably global politics is woven into—even forged by—fashion and women’s personal, domestic lives. Using three influential women as a prism through which to examine one of the most critical and volatile eras in French history, Anne Higonnet combines the fine-grained observational skills of the biographer with the assured vision and far-ranging perspective of the historian. This is important and groundbreaking scholarship—exciting, new, and profoundly feminist.
— Rhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History
I read Liberty Equality Fashion with enormous pleasure. It’s such an original way of looking at history and the female sex in particular. I couldn't resist galloping through it.
— Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette: The Journey
A page-turner that reads like a novel but is based on serious research. Someone should make this book into a movie. — Valerie Steele, editor of Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, and Powerful Color
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