The Parisienne: Ultimate Fashion Icon
Baudelaire offered a lyrical description of a female passer-by on the boulevards of Paris, in which woman and clothes formed an inseparable harmony.
The printmaker Henry Somm specialised in this subject, as we can see in his etching La Parisienne. He did not seek to depict an individual woman, but rather a type that caught the international imagination.
Upmarket stores and couturiers made shrewd use of the myth of the Parisienne to advertise their fashionable clothes and other consumer goods.
Men in black
Where women’s fashions were varied and fanciful, men’s clothing was strikingly uniform and stable.
In his print, The Brawl, tussling men are depicted as a black tangle with the occasional head or hand protruding from the mass.
Emile Zola, Au Bonheur des dames, Paris 1883
Ruth Iskin, Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting, Cambridge 2007
Gloria Groom, Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity, New Haven 2012