The Idea Of Women In Anne Hollander's Women As Dress

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Women in pictorial history have often been used as objects; figures that passively exist for visual consumption or as catalyst for male protagonists. Anne Hollander in her book Fabric of Vision takes the idea of women as objects to a new level in her chapter “Women as Dress”. Hollander presents the reader with an argument that beginning in the mid 19th century artists created women that ceased to exist outside of their elegantly dressed state. These women, Hollander argues, have no body, only dress. This concept, while persuasive, is lacking footing which I will attempt to provide in the following essay. In order to do this, the work of James Tissot (b. 1836 d. 1902) will further cement the idea of “women as dress” while the work of Berthe…show more content…
In the case of Tissot’s The Lady in Pink, her dress is not for public as in “general public” like one might think. Rather this dress is referred to as an “indoor” dress, a dress that would not be worn out on the streets but for entertaining guest. Unlike the pink peignoir of Manet’s Young Lady from 1866 (fig. 2), Tissot’s figure is adorned in the most in-demand fashion of the time. While Manet’s young lady is presented to us in her dressing gown, Tissot’s young lady is in an elaborate gown donned with metallic elements which were made to be seen. Tissot’s lady in pink is not dressed to aid in her own private reflection, but dressed for the viewer’s consumption. Hollander continues her argument by presenting the reader with more images women in private spaces, having private thoughts while wearing public dress. The idea that these women are so comfortable in these corseted, elaborate garments, that even private contemplation cannot separate them from dress, leaves the viewer with the impression that these women have no other state of being. Hollander’s conflation of private moments with public dress makes it clear why she avoided including Tissot in her…show more content…
The unchanged splendor of their toilettes and the opulence of their flesh signified the social status and the monetary power of their fathers, husbands, or lovers, who amassed wealth but did not exhibit it.” This practice is made clear in Tissot’s painting, The Political Lady (fig. 3) from 1883-5. Despite the crowded composition, the central figure demands all of the viewers attention The young woman is being escorted by an older gentleman, whose face we cannot see, but whose white hair gives away his age. Her face is turned to the left and back, casting a shadow as if she is looking at something. What catches her gaze, we don’t know, nor does it really matter. Her side glace and slight smile invites the viewer to take in the spectacle. If there is any confusion that the young woman in pink is supposed to be a spectacle, one only needs to look at the other figures within the canvas. Male figures appear to be both whispering and watching the young woman; she is on display. One male figure, placed in the middle left almost off the canvas, looks directly out of the canvas to the viewer as a reminder that we too are reveling in the

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