This is a historiography of nineteenth-century German clothing and fashion histories studied in the broader context of Kulturgeschichte. It examines the work of four prominent German researchers and demonstrates how the study of historical clothing and fashion acquired a political role that was part of the nation building process. The first researcher is Altertumskundler and cultural historian, Jakob von Hefner-Alteneck (18111903) whose work was predominately informed by the methods of antiquarianism. He offered a model of clothing research based on the systematic study of Denkmäler, monuments, and artifacts. I propose that by reviving historical awareness, his work became an assurance for the continuation of a past broken by revolutions and social upheaval in early nineteenth-century Germany. Widely informed by the universal histories of the eighteenth century, librarian Gustav Klemm (1802-1869) offered a particular science-oriented anthropological model in search for the "original conditions of humanity" with particular regard to the progress of culture. His methodology of clothing research echoed his general view of humankind based on a polarity between "passive" and "active" races. Cultural historian and museum curator Jacob von Falke (1825-1897) is closely linked with the heyday of Kulturgeschichte. Informed by the nascent discipline of art history and, in particular, by German art historian Karl Schnaase, Falke championed the survey-style narrative for the history of clothing and fashion. At the center of Falke's studies stood his theory of historical progress as a struggle for harmony between the spiritual and the material sides of culture. I argue that his writings on historical clothing and fashion reflect the disillusionment of the bourgeoisie after the failed Revolution of 1848 by his strong underlying attack on the German social and political system. Borrowing methodologies used in the natural sciences, anthropologist, physician, and politician, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) focused exclusively on Trachten, as the "true" carrier and representative of the Germanic peoples, in search of the origin of Germanic culture. Ultimately, this investigation of Trachten served a specific agenda, namely supporting and maintaining the status quo of the political and social system in the German Empire at the end of the nineteenth century.
|School:||The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||German literature, European history, Textile Research|
|Keywords:||19th Century, Civilization, Clothing, Fashion, Germany, Kulturgeschichte|
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