American "Parisites": The Influence of Interwar French Fashion on the Modern United States Industry
Flathman, Janine Kelly
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The French have long been associated with high fashion. Under the auspices of Louis XIV, the French began to specialize in creating stylish clothing, hair designs, delectable cuisine and fine wine. Louis’ court generously supported and cultivated craftsman who became the first generation of dressmakers, bakers, artisans and winemakers; their fine craftsmanship instinctively becoming a device of national pride and heritage. By the end of Louis’ reign, France had become synonymous with chic style and luxurious living and the city of Paris home to many of the world’s finest fashion creators who influenced the dress of women throughout the world, in particular the United States. Many studies have been done on famous haute couture designers, from Charles Frederick Worth, widely considered the first “modern” couturier, to the enigmatic Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who reigned over French fashion during the Interwar Period. There is not however, a great deal of work done on how these great couturiers, and others like them, inspired Americans to develop their own fashion industry. The occupation of Paris by the Nazis during World War Two provided a unique opportunity for the United States to fill the void and build a nascent industry designing clothes that may have been inspired by the French, but were uniquely American. By looking at American Vogue magazines from the Interwar Period, World War Two, and the two decades afterwards, this thesis examines how the Americans were inspired by the French and to what extent their inspiration continued after the close of the war. The notion of transcontinental influence is explored through the words of designers, both French and American, and the thoughts and policies of American journalists. The recent trend in transcontinental history is enhanced by looking at this symbiotic relationship that has developed between the two nations.