Summary and Reading Reaction:
- Mary Wagener is an author that specializes in the history of women and art, with many of her works concentrated in the city of Vienna, Austria.
- The text is considered a secondary source mainly because it derives from primary sources to form a historical account of the movement against “fin de siècle” fashion in Vienna, which is characterized by the use of corsets.
- Main argument: Wagener (29-33) discussed how female fashion in Vienna has transitioned from one characterized by ostentatiousness to simplicity and functionality; “efforts to grant women political and economic freedom, and concomitantly, to free them from the physical and mental bonds of fashion” (Wagener 29) characterized the dress reform movement.
- Being signature features of female clothing during the 19th century, corsets were known for providing characteristic elegance to women in Vienna (Wagener 30).
- Nevertheless, the restrictive nature of corsets gradually drew the ire of female feminists and sports enthusiasts alike (Wagener 30), in that all of them argued that such are designed to continuously restrict the movement and mobility of women.
- c. 1814: The French Revolution emphasized on the recognition of human rights – on life, liberty and property, which in turn inspired the dress reform movement for women (Wagener 29).
- c. late 19th century: The dress reform movement in the city of Vienna, Austria was borne out of controversies surrounding the corset (Wagener 30).
- 1902: The Documente der Frauen published its comment on dress reform, making the movement more popular among women (Wagener 30).
- 1902: Gustav Klimt led the so-called “secession” group composed of various professionals in the field of art, which heavily vilified the corset; produced alternatives in the form of smock-like flowing caftans (Wagener 31).
- c. early 1900s: Klimt, with his partner Emilie Floge, developed “reform dresses” that drastically departed from the archetypal corseted design of female fashion (Wagener 31).
- c. early 1900s: Alfred Roller, an expert in costume construction, contributed significantly to the clothing reform movement in Vienna through his expertise in designing functional yet less-restrictive clothing for women (Wagener 31).
- c. early 1900s: Marie Egner, an artist, emphasized that “form should follow function,” in that “light thin” corsets must substitute traditional corsets made of steel in order to provide aesthetic value to less-restrictive female clothing (Wagener 31).
- It is notable to emphasize that the superfluous clothing of women in Vienna is due to not just to the celebration of grand aesthetics, but also of the way such restricts female movement (Wagener 29-33).
- Women during the 19th century and earlier in Vienna hold second-rate status to men, with their key roles limited to being consorts to figures of nobility, housewives in middle-class households and the like (Wagener 29-33).
- Yet, the growth in awareness towards the rights of women at the beginning of the 20th century came the advent of nonrestrictive and functional clothing (Wagener 29-33).
- Such was not done out of “artistic, medical, or intellectual reasons,” for such was more of a political expression through patriotism in light of the First World War (Wagener, 29-33).
- The First World War, having served as the turning point towards the modernization of Vienna, served as an impetus for change in female clothing (Wagener 29-33).
- Steel used for building corsets were instead dedicated to building battleships, in turn making female clothing less restrictive and the freedom emanating from it fashionable (Wagener 29-33).
- The postwar years saw the further development of less restrictive female clothing, making such kind of freedom characteristic of the growing awareness towards the empowerment of women (Wagener 29-33).
What is phenomenal in the findings presented by Wagener (29-33) is the fact that the changes in fashion trends for women is not borne out of aesthetic movements reminiscent to that of the so-called “fads” of the present times. Rather, there is a strong social significance behind the change in female clothing, from the grand yet restrictive features of 19th century fashion to the functional yet freer characteristics that prevailed in the 20th century. One could assert that the shift to less restrictive clothing in female fashion is one that is called for by the circumstances as those suited well with efforts to fight for the empowerment of women. Clothing serves as a physical expression for many, and the fact that women in Vienna were able to let go of the restrictions of 19th century fashion trends speaks volumes about their desire for emancipation (Wagener 33). At the same time, Wagener (31) noted that the clothing reform movement in Vienna also highlighted the need to promote female clothing that, while functional and less elaborate, is aesthetically pleasing. With that, the “form and function” adage noted by Wagener (31) is clearly given great importance in terms of discussing the modernization of female fashion in Vienna.
Wagener, Mary. "Fashion and Feminism in Fin de Siecle Vienna." Woman’s Art Journal 10.2 (1989-1990): 29-33. Print.