dream worlds part i of ii by rosalind h williams n.
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“Dream Worlds” Part I of II by Rosalind H. Williams. Fashion History and Culture . The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) by Thorstein Veblen Founded the t heory of “conspicuous consumption”

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The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) by Thorstein Veblen

      • Founded the theory of “conspicuous consumption”
      • Older bourgeois consumption was replaced by new bourgeois consumption that then intermingled with mass consumption
      • This new hybrid consumption was more complicated since it retained specific habits of a specific superior class (the idea of living in a chateau or hotel). However, thanks to mass consumption it was also marked by the diversity of new forms of consumption, including South Sea islands to Oriental harems, 109.
      • The important take-away is that the number of consumer fantasies and consumer dream worlds multiplied immensely and Veblen’s theory became dated as soon as he announced it.

“Elitist consumers considered themselves a new type of aristocracy, one not of birth but of spirit,” 110.

    • This important point guides the innovations of the Dandies
  • Meanwhile, the author Williams points to four basic groups of consumers
    • 1. bourgeois (homogenous, imitating only the aristocracy, i.e. the idea of living in a chateau or hotel)
    • 2. mass (multitude of fantasies especially the exotic other)
    • 3. elitist (while not aristocrats, used traditionally aristocratic ideals of daring, elan and poise to differentiate themselves from the masses)
    • 4. democratic (consumption as identity and a political and social statement and broaden consumption to everyone), 110

The Dandy, Beau Brummell, was an Elitist consumers who accrued power through

    • Dress
    • Grooming
    • Force of personality, poise, cooland even cold-blooded … recall the “icy indifference” of A Note On Glamour?

But let’s think about the Dandy as trend-setter and tastemaker in 1800’s London. He was written about widely and had an audience who were willing to be subjected to his dictates because following his lead at least differentiated them, his followers, from the “vulgar” masses.

  • So a trickle-down theory of trend diffusion emerges here
    • Now, who are some modern-day Dandies (either male or female) who also have a following of people who are interested in “self-improvement” to emulate their superior taste?

The dandy displayed social leadership at a time when the traditional political and economic sources of aristocratic authority (the fall of the Church’s importance during the middle ages and then more recently the French Revolution ended the legitimacy of hereditary rule) were waning.

  • Perhaps most importantly for us in this class is that the dandy showed the value of public relations for a lifestyle and not just a product. Therefore, in addition to trickle-down trends, modern-day lifestyle marketing owes him a great debt.

Dandyism in France took on unique characteristic suited to that place

    • D’Orsay replaced Brummell as the visible dandy of his time, who lived in both London and Paris and had a much broader support base, which included artists and literary figures.
    • But more importantly than D’Orsay were the fashion media professionals who wrote about dandies and dandyism,
      • Notably Balzac, Jules Barbeyd’Aureyvilly and our old friend (whose name is mentioned in several of our readings) Charles Baudelaire
      • It is them who created the myth of the Dandy and Baudelaire looked upon the dandy as a “heroic” solution to the crisis of fin-de-siècle decadence (see A Note on Glamour reading), 118.

In the next half of the chapter, we’ll see a complex and tragic hero, named des Esseintes, in the French novel A Rebours(“Against the Grain,” 1884) attempt to salvage the elitist ideals of the Dandy in an age of mass consumption.

  • This is a great example of how outliers interact with the mass market and try to eschew mass trends, but can never fully divorce themselves from the “grid.”