In the first critical history of French readymade fashion, Alexis Romano examines an array of cultural sources, including surviving garments, fashion magazines, film, photography and interviews, to weave together previously disparate historical narratives. The resulting volume – Prêt-à-Porter, Paris and Women – situates the readymade in wider postwar discourses of art, design, urbanism, technology and the everyday.
Through a close reading of fashion magazines, namely Vogue and Elle, Romano reveals how French ready-to-wear and the genre of fashion photography in France developed in tandem. Analyses of representations of space, women and prêt-à-porter in such publications – alongside other cultural ephemera including contemporary film, documentary photography and family photographs – demonstrate that popular conceptions of fashion and modernity shifted in the period 1945-68.
The modern identities of French women were also in flux during the twenty-five years after their 1944 suffrage, and exploring their engagement with readymade fashion culture sheds new light on this moment. By connecting personal and national histories, Prêt-à-Porter, Paris and Women illustrates the importance of ready-to-wear to broader narratives of gender, national identity, postwar reconstruction and international dialogue.