Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, by Clare Haru Crowston

By Clare Haru Crowston

"Fabricating girls" examines the social establishment of the seamstresses’ guild in France from the time of Louis XIV to the Revolution. by contrast with past scholarship on girls and gender within the early glossy interval, Clare Haru Crowston asserts that the increase of absolutely the country, with its centralizing and unifying traits, may possibly truly bring up women’s fiscal, social, and criminal possibilities and make allowance them to thrive in company companies resembling the guild. but Crowston additionally finds paradoxical results of the guild’s good fortune, akin to how its starting to be club and visibility eventually fostered an essentialized femininity that used to be tied to type and appearances.

Situating the seamstresses’ guild as either an financial and political establishment, Crowston explores particularly its courting with the all-male tailors’ guild, which had ruled the garments fabrication exchange in France till ladies challenged this monopoly through the 17th century. Combining archival proof with visible photographs, technical literature, philosophical treatises, and type journals, she additionally investigates the suggestions the seamstresses used to make and promote garments, how the clothes mirrored and formed smooth conceptions of femininity, and guild officers’ interactions with royal and municipal professionals. ultimately, by way of supplying a revealing portrait of those women’s deepest lives—explaining, for example, what percentage seamstresses went past conventional lady limitations by means of settling on to stay unmarried and identify their very own households—Crowston demanding situations present rules approximately women’s paintings and relations in early sleek Europe.

Although garments lay on the middle of French fiscal construction, social contrast, and cultural id, Fabricating Women is the 1st e-book to enquire this huge and archetypal lady guild extensive. it is going to be welcomed through scholars and students of French and eu historical past, women’s and exertions background, type and know-how, and early glossy political economic climate.

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Additional resources for Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1675–1791

Sample text

With the rise of mass production in ready-to-wear clothing and the accompanying processes of consolidation and proletarianization, the garment trades underwent fundamental change. Nonetheless, certain aspects of production persisted. This was particularly true of forms of specialization and the fact that workers felt loyal toward their trade affiliations, rather than to their gender or class as a whole. Professional association also recurred among seamstresses, but this must be read as a result of the Old Regime feminization of the garment trades, rather than a direct product of corporate experience.

They allow the historian to glimpse the interior of their homes, meet their family members, and delve into their commercial and personal affairs. The professional gaze of the notary, with its lacunae and distortions, imposes limitations on this glimpse, yet it is extremely valuable nonetheless. The inventories showed me seamstresses’ workshops, tools, and something about the kind of garments they made. They also revealed the composition of seamstresses’ households and their employment of workers.

Across Parisian society, women significantly outconsumed men, acquiring larger and more expensive wardrobes than their husbands, brothers, and fathers. A new fashion industry sprang to life to meet increasing demand, staffed by legions of female artisans and merchants working for a predominantly female clientele. 1 Contemporaries and modern observers have both often accepted this conclusion, tacitly agreeing that women are drawn by their very nature to clothing and consumption. Beginning in the eighteenth century, however, critics began to refute this view by arguing that the femininity of fashion was a cultural and social phenomenon, called into being by the very prevalence of such ideas about women.

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