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Classic Chic

Classic Chic: Music, Fashion, and Modernism

Mary E. Davis
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 361
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  • Book Info
    Classic Chic
    Book Description:

    Music and fashion: the deep connection between these two expressive worlds is firmly entrenched. Yet little attention has been paid to the association of sound and style in the early twentieth century-a period of remarkable and often parallel developments in both high fashion and the arts, including music. This beautifully written book, lavishly illustrated with fashion plates and photographs, explores the relationship between music and fashion, elegantly charting the importance of these arts to the rise of transatlantic modernism. Focusing on the emergence of the movement known as Neoclassicism, Mary E. Davis demonstrates that new aesthetic approaches were related to fashion in a manner that was perfectly attuned to the tastes of jazz-age sophisticates. Looking in particular at three couturiers-Paul Poiret, Germaine Bongard, and Coco Chanel-and three breakthrough fashion magazines-La Gazette du Bon Ton, Vanity Fair,andVogue-Davis illuminates for the first time the ways in which fashion's imperatives of originality and constant change influenced composers such as Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Les Six. She also considers the role played by the Ballets Russes, and explores the contributions of artists including costume and set designer Léon Bakst, writer and director Jean Cocteau, Amédée Ozenfant, and Pablo Picasso. The first study to situate music in this rich context,Classic Chicdemonstrates the profound importance of the linked endeavors of composition and couture to modernist thought. In addition to its innovative approach to this important moment in history, Davis's focus on the social aspects of the story makes the book a tremendously engaging read.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94168-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. 1-21)

    In the June 1923 issue of FrenchVogue,an unusual portrait of an unlikely subject appears amid the fashion plates. Accompanying a story about the adventures of a fictional Parisian named Palmyre, the drawing is fashion illustrator Eduardo Benito’s sketch of the “good musician” Erik Satie, “bearded and laughing like a faun.” The composer is just one of the characters in the larger tale of Palmyre’s “escapades in the world of artists,” which is part of the magazine’s feature series tracing the lives of six stylish young women in the French capital. Palmyre, in this installment, dines with Raymond Radiguet,...

    (pp. 22-47)

    So chic was the Russian ballet that the line between stage and couture salon collapsed: in 1912 Diaghilev’s designer, Léon Bakst, offered his first fashion collection to the public. Working with couturiere Jeanne Paquin, Bakst created “street dresses” that recalled key Ballets Russes productions, evoking the mythological past ofL’Après-midi d’un fauneas well as the exotic orientalism ofSchéhérazade.As one French journal reported in April 1913, these gowns, given suggestive names such as “Isis” and “Niké,” were the talk of fashionable Paris, envied “in the salons and artist’s ateliers, in tea houses and theaters, in the halls of...

    (pp. 48-92)

    “A new era, with new methods, needs new pages.” So declaredLa Gazette du Bon Tonin its inaugural editorial, published in November 1912, and from this date until its demise in 1925 the magazine set the standard for elegance and luxury in the fashion press. Announcing on its masthead a devotion to “arts, fashions, and frivolities,” the monthlyGazetteresembled a deluxe book more than a fashion periodical, and quickly became required reading for sophisticated Parisiennes who warmed to its tone of elegance and exclusivity. Produced on fine paper and illustrated with exquisite handcolored plates, it presented a highly...

    (pp. 93-116)

    On an evening in late May 1916, a select group of Parisians gathered at fashion designer Germaine Bongard’s boutique on the stylish rue de Penthièvre. Like her more famous brother, Paul Poiret, Bongard maintained a gallery on the ground floor of her atelier, and on view were modernist paintings by Picasso, Léger, Matisse, and Modigliani.¹ The evening’s highlight, however, was a concert of the latest works by Erik Satie and Catalan composer Enrique Granados. The event was poignant: Granados and his wife had drowned a few months earlier, homeward bound after the successful premiere of his operaGoyescasat the...

    (pp. 117-152)

    Cocteau and Satie set to work onParadealmost immediately after their encounter at the Bongardfêtein the spring of 1916, launching a stormy partnership that would last for nearly seven years. The fruits of this collaboration were few in number but bold in intent: the duo proposed to demonstrate that modernist art could be entertaining, fashionable, and fun. Modernism à la Cocteau and Satie drew its materials from the ephemera of everyday life, including fashion, advertising, cinema, and popular song, and expressed itself in a slangy tone that was both colloquial and sophisticated. Casual yet cosmopolitan, this mix...

    (pp. 153-201)

    “Fashion must come up from the streets.” So declared Coco Chanel, articulating a philosophy that would revolutionize style and change women’s dress forever. In an age when ornate embellishment and rigorous body control still set couture clothing apart from lesser modes of dress, Chanel dared to propose a radical new look based on simplicity and body-conscious naturalism. Her functional designs, inspired by the humble sweaters, trousers, and other workaday garments of ordinary French men and women, were a powerful antidote to the widely held notion that couture was an art and the couturier an artistic genius. Instead, Chanel emphasized the...

  11. 7 VOGUE
    (pp. 202-254)

    In May 1924, fashion was the focus at the Théâtre de la Cigale, a slummingly chic Montmartre music hall. Count Etienne de Beaumont had commandeered the venue for a series he billed as the “Soirée de Paris,” and he promised “choreographic and dramatic shows” with new works by some of the most sought-after artists of the day, including Satie, Milhaud, Picasso, Braque, Derain, and Cocteau.¹ In lieu of an offering by one of those well-known modernists, however, the series opened with a surprise: a brief ballet entitledTrois pages dansées,for which Beaumont himself had devised the choreography and much...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 255-286)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 287-300)
  14. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 301-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-332)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)