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Was fashion a European invention?*

  • Carlo Marco Belfanti (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Fashion was arguably a social phenomenon that emerged in Europe during early modern times, and this paper seeks to determine whether it was unknown in the refined civilizations of the East. The conclusion is that fashion was not a European invention. The analysis of the evolution of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese clothing systems underlines how these societies underwent phases in which, thanks to propitious economic conditions, the accentuated propensity towards consumption stimulated behaviour that challenged the traditional hierarchies of appearance, usually regulated by canons of a prescriptive nature. Fashion was not, therefore, a European invention, but it only fully developed as a social institution in Europe, while in India, China, and Japan it only evolved partially, without being able to obtain full social recognition.

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1 René König, Menschheit auf dem Laufsteg: die Mode im Zivilisationprozess, Munich: Carl Hauser Verlag, 1985. See also Daniel Roche, La culture des apparences: une histoire du vêtement XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles, Paris: Fayard, 1989, pp. 50–3; Daniel Roche, Histoire des choses banales: naissance de la consommation dans les sociétés traditionelles (XVIIe–XIXe siècles), Paris: Fayard, 1997.

2 Gilles Lipovetsky, L’empire de l’éphèmere: la mode et son destin dans les sociétés modernes, Paris: Gallimard, 1987, pp. 25–8.

3 A neat synthesis is proposed by Yuniya Kawamura, Fashion-ology: an introduction to fashion studies, Oxford: Berg, 2005.

4 Georg Simmel, Die Mode, Berlin: Pan Verlag, 1905.

5 Roche, Culture des apparences; Daniel L. Purdy, The tyranny of elegance: consumer cosmopolitanism in the era of Goethe, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998; David Kuchta, The three-piece suit and modern masculinity, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002; Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in eighteenth-century Europe, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002; Woodruff D. Smith, Consumption and the making of respectability 1600–1800, New York: Routledge, 2002; Jennifer M. Jones, Sexing la mode: gender, fashion and commercial culture in old regime France, Oxford: Berg, 2004; Maxine Berg, Luxury and pleasure in eighteenth-century Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

6 For a recent survey, see Antonia Finnane, Changing clothes in China, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, pp. 19–41.

7 Quoted by Fernand Braudel, Civilization and capitalism: the structures of everyday life, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992, p. 323.

8 Quoted by Braudel, Civilization and capitalism, p. 312.

9 Ibid., pp. 311–24.

10 Neil McKendrick, ‘The commercialization of fashion’, in Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and John H. Plumb, eds., The birth of a consumer society: the commercialization of eighteenth-century England, London: Europa Publications, 1982, pp. 36–42.

11 Gilles Lipovetsky, L’empire de l’éphémère, pp. 30–1, 55, 71.

12 Chaudhuri Kirti N., Asia before Europe: economy and civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the rise of Islam to 1750, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 182–90.

13 Peter Burke, ‘Res et verba: conspicuous consumption in the early modern world’, in John Brewer and Roy Porter, eds., Consumption and the world of goods, London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 148–61.

14 Adshead S. A. M., Material culture in Europe and China, 1400–1800, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997.

15 Kenneth Pomeranz, The great divergence: China, Europe and the making of the modern world economy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000, pp. 157–65. For a more recent survey, see Finnane, Changing clothes in China, pp. 1–17.

16 Craig Clunas, ‘Modernity, global and local: consumption and the rise of the West’, American Historical Review, 104, 5, 1999, pp. 14971511.

17 For the pre-Mughal period, see Ramesh P. Mohapatra, Fashion styles of ancient India: dress and costumes, New Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation, 1992.

18 Chaudhuri, Asia before Europe, p. 183.

19 Goswamy B. N., Indian costumes in the collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad: Calico Museum, 1993; see also Govind S. Ghurye, Indian costume, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1966.

20 Linda Lynton, The sari, London: Thames and Hudson, 1995; Mujulika Banerjee and Daniel Miller, The sari, Oxford: Berg, 2003.

21 Goswamy, Indian costumes, p. 1.

22 Ghurye, Indian costume, pp. 1–30; Mohapatra, Fashion styles of ancient India, pp. 1–100; Shiv N. Dar, Costumes of India and Pakistan: a historical and cultural study, Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala Sons and Co. Pr. Ltd., 1982, pp. 1–35; Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 9–14.

23 Richards John F., The Mughal empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

24 Ghurye, Indian costume, pp. 207–8; Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 1–14.

25 Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Cloth, clothes and colonialism in India’, in Annette B. Weiner and Jane Schneider, eds., Cloth and human experience, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, pp. 331–3.

26 Ghurye, Indian costume, pp. 130–6; Dar, Costumes of India, p. 48.

27 Ghurye, Indian costume, pp.129–30; Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 43–7; Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 14–18.

28 Mohapatra, Fashion styles of ancient India: hair styles and coiffures, pp. 1–85 (second part, with new pagination, of Fashion styles of ancient India); Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 7–8; Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 47, 96–8; Cohn, ‘Cloth’, pp. 313–16.

29 Ghurye, Indian costume, p. 210; Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 43–4; Goswamy, Indian costumes, p. 16.

30 Chris A. Bayly, ‘The origins of swadeshi (home industry): cloth and Indian society’, in Arjun Appadurai, ed., The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 297–301; Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 17–18; Chaudhuri, Asia before Europe, p. 188.

31 Ghurye, Indian costume, pp. 130–6; Dar, Costumes of India, p. 48.

32 Pietro Della Valle, De’ viaggi di Pietro Della Valle …, Roma: Vitale Mascardi, 1663, vol. 3, p. 34; Jean Thévenot, Troisième partie des voyages de M. de Thévenot contenant la relation de l’Indostan, des nouveaux Mogoles et des autres peuples et pays de l’Inde, Paris: Claude Barbin, 1684, p. 104.

33 Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 51–5; Goswamy, Indian costumes, pp. 18–20.

34 Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 55–71; Goswamy, Indian costumes, p. 20.

35 Pomeranz, The great divergence, pp. 127–30, 145–9.

36 Ibid., p. 148.

37 Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 55–6.

38 Pomeranz, The great divergence, p. 148.

39 Ghurye, Indian costume, p. 21.

40 Govind S. Ghurye, ‘Features of the caste system’, in Dipankar Gupta, ed., Social stratification, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 35–48.

41 Dar, Costumes of India, pp. 58–9.

42 Chaudhuri, Asia before Europe, pp. 55–6. For living standards in India during the sixteenth century, see Ashok V. Desai, ‘Population and standards of living in Akbar’s time’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 9, 1972, pp. 43–62; Shireen Moosvi, ‘Production, consumption and population in Akbar’s time’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 10, 1973, pp. 181–95.

43 Adshead, Material culture, pp. 73–4.

44 Alvaro Semedo, The history of that great and renowned monarchy of China, London: John Crook, 1655 (1st edition 1643).

45 See John Vollmer, In the presence of the dragon throne, Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1977, p. 21.

46 Semedo, The history, p. 29.

47 Ibid., p. 29.

48 Ibid., p. 30.

49 Ibid., pp. 30–1.

50 Vollmer, In the presence, pp. 20–1.

51 Valerie Steele and John S. Major, China chic: East meets West, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 15–19.

52 John Vollmer, Chinese costume and accessories 17th–20th century, Paris: AEDTA, 1999, p. 4.

53 T’ung-Tsu Chu, Law and society in traditional China, Paris: Mouton & Co., 1961, p. 135.

54 Ibid., p. 137–9; Vollmer, Chinese costume, p. 6.

55 Garrett Valery M., Chinese clothing: an illustrated guide, Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 3–8; Steele and Major, China chic, p. 28.

56 Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 9–12.

57 Schuyler Cammann, ‘The development of the mandarin square’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 8, 1944, pp. 71–9; Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 14–17; Steele and Major, China chic, pp. 28–9.

58 Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 19–25.

59 Ibid., p. 12.

60 Cammann, ‘The development’, pp. 79–81; Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 29–30; Vollmer, Chinese costume, p. 6; Steele and Major, China chic, p. 29.

61 Cammann, ‘The development’, p. 80; Vollmer, In the presence, p. 22; Vollmer, Chinese costume, p. 6; Steele and Major, China chic, p. 29.

62 Steele and Major, China chic, p. 29.

63 Vollmer, In the presence, pp. 30–45; Garrett, Chinese Clothing, pp. 30–46, 47–61.

64 Cammann, ‘The development’, pp. 79–90; Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 62–75.

65 Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 76–94; Steele and Major, China chic, p. 31.

66 Craig Clunas, Superfluous things: material culture and social status in early modern China, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, pp. 147–61.

67 Quoted by Cammann, ‘The development’, p. 78.

68 Ibid., p. 79; Garrett, Chinese clothing, p. 10.

69 Vollmer, Chinese costume, p. 7; Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 30–1.

70 Cammann, ‘The development’, pp. 86–7; Garrett, Chinese clothing, p. 70.

71 Semedo, The history, p. 29.

72 Quoted by Timothy Brook, The confusion of pleasure: commerce and culture in Ming China, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998, p. 220. Brook translates with ‘fashion’ the term shiyang, which literally means ‘the appearance of the moment’.

73 Quoted by Clunas, Superfluous things, p. 155.

74 Quoted by Clunas, Superfluous things, p. 154.

75 Quoted by Brook, Confusion of pleasure, pp. 221–2.

76 Garrett, Chinese clothing, pp. 77–8.

77 Clunas, Superfluous things, p. 5; Brook, Confusion of pleasure, pp. 10–13, 190–210; S. Dauncey, ‘Illusions of grandeur: perceptions of status and wealth in late-Ming female clothing and ornamentation’, East Asian Studies, 25–6, 2003, pp. 43–68.

78 Brook, Confusion of pleasure, pp. 210–18.

79 Clunas, Superfluous things, pp. 160–5.

80 Qitao Guo, Ritual opera and mercantile lineage: the Confucian transformation of popular culture in late imperial Huizhou, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005, pp. 56–74. See also Madeleine Zelin, The merchants of Zigong: industrial entrepreneurship in early modern China, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

81 Clunas, Superfluous things, pp. 160–5; Brook, Confusion of pleasure, pp. 210–18.

82 Clunas, Superfluous things, pp. 170–2; Dauncey, ‘Illusions of grandeur’.

83 Adshead, Material culture, p. 75.

84 Clunas, Superfluous things, p. 173; Brook, Confusion of pleasure, p. 160.

85 Clunas, Superfluous things, p. 173; Pomeranz, The great divergence, pp. 152–62.

86 Finnane, Changing clothes in China, pp. 52–6. Peter Burke also does not think that the coming of the Qing produced such a radical change (see Burke, ‘Res et verba’, pp. 151–2).

87 Quoted by Finnane, Changing clothes in China, p. 54.

88 Helen B. Minmich, Japanese costume and the makers of its elegant tradition, Rutland, VT: Tuttle Co., 1963, pp. 28–9; Sylvie and Dominique Buisson, Kimono: art traditionnel du Japon, Lausanne: Edita, 1983, pp. 20–1; Liza Crihfield Dalby, Kimono: fashioning culture, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1993, pp. 25–30.

89 Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 217–69.

90 Buisson, Kimono, pp. 22–9; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 28–32, 217–69.

91 Fumiko Komatsu, L’Évolution du costume au Japon depuis l’antiquité jusqu’à l’époque des Tokugawa, Paris: Maurice Lavergne, 1942, pp. 107–14; Seiroku Noma, Japanese costume and textile arts, New York: Weatherill, 1974, pp. 13–36; Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 30–1; Buisson, Kimono, pp. 31–6; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 34–7.

92 Crihfield Dalby Kimono, pp. 17–21; Hanley Susan B., Everyday things in pre-modern Japan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997, pp. 68–71.

93 Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 31–2; Noma, Japanese costume, pp. 30–5; Buisson, Kimono, pp. 37–9; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 38–9.

94 Shively Donald H., ‘Sumptuary regulations and status in early Tokugawa Japan’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 25, 1964–5, pp. 123–64.

95 Alan Kennedy, Costumes japonais, Paris: Adam Biro, 1990, pp. 10–20; Jill Liddell, The story of the kimono, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1999, pp. 121–7.

96 Burke, ‘Res et verba’, pp. 153–4; David S. Landes, The wealth and poverty of nations: why some are so rich and some so poor, New York: W. W. Norton, 1998, pp. 365–6.

97 Kennedy, Costumes japonais, pp. 16–25; Burke, ‘Res et verba’, pp. 154–5.

98 Ihara Saikaku, The Japanese family storehouse or the millionaires’ gospel modernised, ed. Geoffrey W. Sargent, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959, p. 26.

99 Ibid., p. 98.

100 Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 195–251; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 40–9; Liddell, Story of the kimono, pp. 136–9.

101 Liddell, Story of the kimono, pp. 136–9.

102 Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 203–8; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 271–321.

103 Quoted by Shively, ‘Sumptuary regulations’, p. 158.

104 Ibid., pp. 123–58; Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 209–51.

105 Shively, ‘Sumptuary regulations’, pp.131–5, 155–8.

106 Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 208–51; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 286–7; Liddell, Story of the kimono, pp. 147–53.

107 Shively, ‘Sumptuary regulations’, pp. 131–3; Noma, Japanese costume, pp. 37–41; Kennedy, Costumes japonais, pp. 15–28; Minmich, Japanese costume, p. 199; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 274–5; Liddell, Story of the kimono, pp. 128–36.

108 Minmich, Japanese costume, p. 199.

109 Quoted by Minmich, Japanese costume, p. 191.

110 Shively, ‘Sumptuary regulations’, pp. 123–31.

111 Minmich, Japanese costume, pp. 277–82; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 40–51; Burke, ‘Res et verba’, pp. 154–5.

112 Noma, Japanese costume, pp. 89–93; Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp.52–5; Liddell, Story of the kimono, pp. 166–9.

113 Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, pp. 59–107; Hanley, Everyday things, pp. 166–168.

114 Niall Ferguson, Empire: how Britain made the modern world, London: Penguin Books, 2004.

* The author would like to thank the referees and editors for their comments and suggestions.

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