Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France

TitleFabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsCrowston, Clare Haru
Number of Pages528
PublisherDuke University Press
CityDurham, NC

Fabricating Women examines the social institution of the seamstresses’ guild in France from the time of Louis XIV to the Revolution. Clare Haru Crowston asserts that the rise of the absolute state, with its centralizing and unifying tendencies, could actually increase women’s economic, social, and legal opportunities and allow them to thrive in corporate organizations such as the guild. Yet Crowston also reveals paradoxical consequences of the guild’s success, such as how its growing membership and visibility ultimately fostered an essentialized femininity that was tied to fashion and appearances. Crowston also investigates the techniques the seamstresses used to make and sell clothing, how the garments reflected and shaped modern conceptions of femininity, and guild officials’ interactions with royal and municipal authorities. Although clothing lay at the heart of French economic production, social distinction, and cultural identity, this is the first book to investigate this immense and archetypal female guild in depth.

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