Susan Hiner gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 12:15 pm. Her talk was entitled “Behind the Seams: Women, Fashion, and Work in Nineteenth-Century France.”


Susan Hiner is Professor of French and Francophone Studies on the John Guy Vassar Chair in Modern Languages at Vassar College. She is the author of Accessories to Modernity: Fashion and the Feminine in Nineteenth-Century France(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), which won the Millia Davenport Publication Award of the Costume Society of America, and she has written numerous articles and essays pertaining to nineteenth-century French culture. She was recently awarded a National Endowment of Humanities Fellowship to complete her new manuscript “Behind the Seams: Women, Fashion, and Work in Nineteenth-Century France.”

Expanding the metaphor of dress seams through an interdisciplinary approach, “Behind the Seams” centers on women’s involvement in early fashion production to explore a less visible nineteenth-century France. The women working in France’s first fashion economy often disappear behind the glorious products they produced: the seamstress who cut and sewed the dress, the modiste who created an embellished hat, the women who chronicled fashion’s vagaries week in and week out, and the earliest female fashion illustrators whose renderings created models that sped around the globe. Scholars have contributed to the invisibility of their labor by focusing on consumption alone, but traces of these women’s work remain in quiet archives: wardrobes, fashion magazines, popular literature, and prints. In this talk, Hiner offered an overview of the book’s progression through a discussion of the women who produced, chronicled, and illustrated fashion in nineteenth-century France.