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The Scent of Fashion

Introduction: Fashion and Impressionism

To take Charles Baudelaire's premise in The Painter of Modern Life that fashion is one of the great signifiers of modernity, then the dress of the later nineteenth century can be best encapsulated in the vision of the Impressionists. In the words of Huysmans: "To envelope people in the scent of fashion to which they belong, such has always been one of Monsieur Manet's greatest pre-occupations."

The Courtauld Institute's collection of late nineteenth century French paintings might be used to reveal some of the trends in fashionable female dress during the period 1872-1892. The images depict a variety of elements in female dress, from underwear to day dresses, evening dresses and outdoor wear throughout the period, and epitomise the "scent of fashion" which permeated society at all levels.

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