Forming and Performing Female Identities through Othering Interior Garments in Belle-Époque Belgium and France

01 October 2022 → 31 December 2026
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Cultural history
    • Literatures in English
    • Literatures in French
    • History of art
    • Interior architecture history and theory
    • Fashion design
orientalism historicisim interiority interior garments Belle Époque
Project description

During the nineteenth-century, fashion etiquette distinguished many categories of clothing suitable for specific occasions, locations, and times of day. One category, which expanded from the 1870s onwards, was that of interior gowns or undress. While most were relatively simple, the interior gowns of wealthy women could be lavish, their design inspired by a spatio-temporal Other, meaning, either a prior historical period or a non-Western place. These gowns were inappropriate to wear outside of the home but, within the semi-private sphere, women could indulge in them. Here, these gowns entered into a visual and tactile dialogue with the interior's furnishings—upholstery, draped textiles, and objets d’art. Together, these elements constituted a sartorial scenography for women to privately form their identity, but also to publicly perform it, for example when opening the family home to their social network during the jour de réception. Through the analysis of extant interior garments, as well as their contemporary depictions and descriptions, this project aims (1) to provide a categorisation of the different types of undress and to understand more thoroughly the subcategory of Othering interior garments, (2) to analyse the entanglement of Othering interior garments and domestic interiors, and (3) to understand how women used these Othering garments within their interiors to form and perform identity in Belle-Époque Belgium and France.