Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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Fashion

"FASHIONING THE BOURGEOISIE" Clothing reflected an investment, not just of money, but also of time. A fashionable bourgeois wife might go through seven or eight different wardrobe changes in a single day. A rigorous sartorial code dictated which outfit was appropri-ate for what occasion and time of day. Through their fashion choices, bourgeois women fulfilled the public role society had assigned to them as conspicuous consumers and walking symbols of their husbands’ wealth and status. Men followed fashion trends from London, adopt-ing the redingote (English riding coat) and tight-fitting trousers, usually in black. Dandyism, invented in England by the famous dresser Beau Brummel, was popularized in France through handbooks such as Balzac’s 1830 Treatise on Elegant Living, published in La Mode, the same paper that published Gavarni’s fashion plates. The dandy, Balzac explained, distinguished himself from the hard-working bourgeois in the time he took to get dressed and groomed and in the careful selection of fashion accessories. Ties, gloves, and cane handles were particularly important markers of refinement and aloofness from economic productivity.


  1. Costume d'Humann

    Paul Gavarni (French, 1804–1866) Costume d'Humann (Man's Suit by Humann), 1842 Lithograph Gift of Eugene L. Garbaty, 1951.79.209…

  2. Robes de satin

    Paul Gavarni (French, 1804–1866) Robes de satin (Satin Dresses), 1839 Color lithograph Gift of Eugene L. Garbaty, 1951.79.221 "…

  3. La Lionne de la Chaussée d'Antin

    Alfred André Géniole (French, 1813–1861) La Lionne de la Chausée d'Antin (The Female Dandy of the Chausée d’Antin), 1841…

  4. La Lionne du Faubourg St. Germain

    Alfred André Géniole (French, 1813–1861) La Lionne du Faubourg St. Germain (The Female Dandy of the Faubourg St. Germain), 184…

  5. La Fosse aux Lions

    Alfred André Géniole (French, 1813–1861) La Fosse Aux Lions (Opéra) [The Lion’s Den (Opera)], mid-19th century Lithograph G…

  6. Effets du tourniquet

    Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Effets du tourniquet sur les jupons en crinoline (The effect of turnstiles on hoop skirts),…

  7. Aux Champs-Élysées

    Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Aux Champs-Élysées (On the Champs-Élysées), 1855 Lithograph Gift of Eugene L. Garbaty, 1…

  8. Comment on entrera

    Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Comment on entrera à l'exposition universelle et comment on en sortira (How one enters the…

  9. Un léger zéphyr

    Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Un léger zéphyr annonçant l'arrivée du printemps (A gentle breeze announcing the arrival…

  10. Élimination à huis clos

    Paul Gavarni (French, 1804–1866) Elimination à huis-Clos (Elimination Behind Closed Doors), 1839 Lithograph Gift of Eugene L. G…

  11. Le Médecin des dames

    Charles-Émile Jacque (French, 1813–1894) Le Médecin de dames (The Ladies' Doctor), 19th century Lithograph Gift of Eugene L.…

  12. Châle en Cachemire

    Kerven (French, active mid-19th century) Châle en Cachemire des Magasins Biétry et Cie. (Cashmere shawl from Bietry’s), 19th c…