Women, Morality, and Materiality: Performing Transgression through Dress and Décor in Fin-de-Siècle Theatre - Université Paris Nanterre Access content directly
Journal Articles Volupté - Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies Year : 2021

Women, Morality, and Materiality: Performing Transgression through Dress and Décor in Fin-de-Siècle Theatre

Abstract

From the fussy and disordered rocaille of the neo-Louis XV style to the swirling and luxuriant ‘modern style’, lustful and deviant women on the theatrical stage in mid- to late nineteenth-century London and Paris merge with the materiality around them: they wear lavish dresses, and perform on sets crowded with furniture, trinkets, baubles, and ostentatious objects. In both Le Demi-monde (1851) and in Les Demi-vierges (1900), breaking the seemly decorum of social gender roles is materialised by flashy interiors according to the latest excessive fashion. Moreover, the dazzlingly overdressed women interact with the proliferating objects of their nouveau riche interiors, invading rooms that are not usually dedicated to them: living rooms, lounges, smoking rooms. Their social involvement is thereby spoofed, caricatured, and reduced to a failed attempt to mimic the high class, as well as the men who rejected them. The stereotype of a decadent materialism is emphasised through the xenophobic scope: in London, representations of French women's interiors in vaudeville or musical comedies go hand in hand with allusions to prostitution and an immoderate luxury taste. On the other hand, in Paris, the ‘modern-style’ or the ‘decadent costume’ can be associated with the Aesthetes from the other side of the Channel. Foreign, excessive and feminine, scenery and dress intertwined to create the material environment of decadence on stage: an eccentric behaviour both condemned and displayed as an appealing consumable product for both women and men of the audience.
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Dates and versions

hal-04484474 , version 1 (07-03-2024)

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Barbara Bessac. Women, Morality, and Materiality: Performing Transgression through Dress and Décor in Fin-de-Siècle Theatre. Volupté - Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 2021, 4 (2), ⟨10.25602/GOLD.v.v4i2.1586.g1700⟩. ⟨hal-04484474⟩
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