Far from being a frivolous subject, fashion is the supreme expression of the contemporary spirit. Sartorial elements embody the pace and rhythm of modern society and culture as few other ideas or commodities do. Indeed, the hallmarks of la modernité found their most immediate reflection in la mode. But no one until now has attempted a rigorous analysis of fashion, on a par with attempts to construct a philosophy of art, music, or literature. In this book Ulrich Lehmann sets out to do just that. He explores the interplay between philosophical ideas and fashion, reading texts and textiles, discourse and dresses, to investigate modernity from a variety of perspectives: artistic, philosophical, sociological, and historical.
The stage for this interplay between intellectual concept and sartorial expression is Parisian society from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Lehmann focuses on a core of pivotal individuals, beginning with Charles Baudelaire in the 1850s, continuing with Stéphane Mallarmé and Georg Simmel, and arriving at Walter Benjamin, Louis Aragon, and André Breton almost a century later. The book's title comes from Benjamin's use of the German word Tigersprung (tiger's leap) to describe fashion's leap into the past to create an ever-changing present. Lehmann focuses in particular on Benjamin's Arcades Project as an unfinished work on the philosophy of fashion. He also looks at the role of fashion in the work of the Dadaists and surrealists, who used clothes and accessories as simulacra for the human body and mind.
Fashion, according to Lehmann, does not just reflect social change but is a social force in its own right. In creating the perfect expression of the contemporary spirit—by drawing on the past—fashion excels at anticipating things to come.
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Ulrich Lehmann is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University College for the Creative Arts, Rochester, and Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum in London.Review:
"This is an essential book."
"Ulrich Lehmann’s Tigersprung is one of the best books on fashion that I have read in years."
—Valerie Steele, Fashion Institute of Technology
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