CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION AND THE THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS OR WHY ALLIGATORS ARE “TACKY”
NO REASON EXCEPT I LIKED IT
THORSTEIN VEBLEN The Theory of Leisure (UNIV. CHICAGO)
The institution of a leisure class is found in its best development, in feudal Europe or feudal Japan. In such communities the distinction between classes is very rigorously observed; and the feature of most striking economic significance in these class differences is the distinction maintained between the employments proper to the several classes. The upper classes are by custom exempt or excluded from industrial occupations, and are reserved for certain employments to which a degree of honour attaches
Chief among the honourable employments is warfare; and priestly service is commonly second to warfare.
In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence. And not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of his importance alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's self-complacency.
SPORT FOR THE LEISURED SOCIETY (Note White)
OR PLAY IT ON HORSE-BACK (Amateur of course), or play when working people cannot.
The Very Rich are Different from You and Me The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Absence from labour is not just a meritorious act, but it presently comes to be a requisite of decency. The insistence on property as the basis of reputability is very naive and very imperious during the early stages of the accumulation of wealth. Abstention from labour is the convenient evidence of wealth and is therefore the conventional mark of social standing; and this insistence on the meritorious ness of wealth leads to a more strenuous insistence on leisure.
It has already been remarked that the term "leisure", as here used, does not connote indolence or quiescence. What it connotes is non-productive consumption of time and the ability to afford a life of idleness.
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.
The leisure rendered by the wife in such cases is, of course, not a simple manifestation of idleness or indolence. It almost invariably occurs disguised under some form of work or household duties or social amenities, which prove on analysis to serve little or no ulterior end beyond showing that she does not occupy herself with anything that is gainful or that is of substantial use.
WHAT CAN THE WIFE DO WHICH IS HARD WORK, VOLUNTARY, DOES NOT INVOLVE MAKING MONEY?
NOT SHOWING IS CONSPICUOUS
NB: Labels on clothes are not high class, it is the cut and knowledge that is high class.
I.e.: Not having a car can either mean a) Poverty b) Ability to pay anything to have transport available at all times. (Richest woman in Britain-Duchess of Westminster-uses public transport and does not own a vehicle)
FOR THE YOUNG IT CAN EVEN BECOME A CLUB
Poorly but privately educated, or something like History of Art
‘ Horsy’ and country
Blouses, pressed jeans, pumps with bows, girls in pearls.
ALL THE FAULT OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Money from Trade
No Sumptuary Law
BUT having the masses consume is how they became super rich.
How to look professional and trustworthy.
And how to demonstrate a place in society.
INDUSTRY SUPPORTING CONSUMPTION AT THE TOP (AND FERMENTING REVOLUTION) Louis XIV King 1643 - 1715
The French treasury, after a long war, stood close to bankruptcy when Louis XIV assumed, upon the death of his Premier Ministre , Cardinal Mazarin, personal control of the reins of government in 1661.
Louis appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Finance Minister in 1665.
Note : as part of the general settlement of the war of Spanish Succession France was obliged to cede the colonies and possessions of Newfoundland , Rupert's Land and Acadia , while retaining Île-Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island ) and Île Royale (now Cape Breton Island ), in the Americas to Great Britain;
Followed Cardinal Richelieu and Massacring as Finance Minister. Unlike those he was not a Cardinal and not aristocratic.
B 1661 and 1671 the national revenue of France was doubled. At court displays of wealth supplanted demonstrations of power as proof of nobility and strength .
“ The sumptuousness of the court was intended to persuade others of the king’s power. Louis expected the aristocracy to follow his lead, “He liked splendor, magnificence, and profusion in everything: you pleased him if you shone through the brilliancy of your houses, your clothes, your table, your equipages. Thus a taste for extravagance and luxury was disseminated through all classes of society. The aim was to please His Majesty, which required attendance at court where life was so expensive.
A fashionable appearance was taken as part of the French national character; those who did not follow the king became figures of fun.
Concentration on extravagance at home would eventually lead to a neglect of the French Navy: Wolfe at Quebec (Sept. 1859)
THE SUN KING ARISES 1654?
A peace treaty decided that Louis would marry his cousin, the Spanish Infanta Maria Teresia, daughter of Philip IV.
France had been an enemy and a challenge to Hapsburg rule in Spain, Philip IV in 1623 had introduced his Capitulos de Reformacion banning French clothing and hairstyles in Spain. Catholic Spain was conservative in manner and in dress, utilizing high, stiff collars and garments, heavy fabrics, dense ornamentation, geometric shapes and tension. Strict codes of conduct and of dress made these styles compulsory throughout much of Catholic Europe.
In contrast, the French court loved embroidery, display and frivolity. Louis XIV was twenty-one upon his marriage and wanted to shine so that the whole world would see Apollo in his splendor. He wanted his clothes to be fantastic and lively, the opposite of Spanish sobriety. It was a visual display of political rivalry when the final wedding ceremony took place on June ninth, 1660.
Life is a Cabaret
F ashion of manners.
An economic tool, a sumptuary tool, a tool to control an over-large aristocracy.
The King set the fashion so it was a fashion of authority
Versailles the centre point, to be away from the centre risked exclusion, to be close risked bankruptcy.
Little sewage at Versailles, importance of linen and perfume.
Versailles for glory not ease of access. Built on a swamp, conspicuous consumption writ large. Clothing became suitable for nothing but indolence. Luxury used by the king to keep court in relative penury.
Conspicuous Consumption was Cultural Power
Louis used the arts to “project his vision of centralized government, national unity, and royal control of all aspects of French life.” Royal Manufactory of the Goblins employed over 800 tapestry workers, sculptors, artists, goldsmiths and embroiderers.
1663 the Academy of Painting and Sculpture was created,
1665 the Journal des Savants , a national periodical of scientific and literary review began.
In 1666 the French Academies in Rome and in Paris were opened as well as the Academy of Sciences in Paris.
1667 construction began on the Observatory in the faubourg Saint-Jacques,
1669 the Royal Academy of Music was opened, and in 1671 the Academy of Architecture.
The arts were nationalized into a system of glorification of the king, to increase his international prestige and to promote the economy of the nation.
Fashion Became Majesty and Power
Mazzarin had set up the system where the Bourgeois were the ministers. The aristocracy had position but no power to challenge the king.
By multiplying the positions around him, Louis XIV excited constant jealousy between the different officeholders and the ranks of the aristocracy. He also ensured that the energies that had once provoked civil wars would be spent in quarreling about the right to a stool, or the order of entrance into the royal bedroom. Wit and lively conversation became a necessity to fill the long, leisurely hours; for although the king worked long hours, most of the courtiers had nothing to do. Indeed, it was at times strenuous to be a noble, “(to appear in) full dress, go to Flanders or further, dance, sit up, attend fêtes, eat, be merry and good company, go from place to place; appear neither to fear, nor to be inconvenienced by heat, wind, or dust; and all this precisely to the hour and day, without a minute’s grace.” In attending the king at court, the nobility surrendered not only its personal life but its political power as well. And also pauperized the aristocracy.
FASHION WAS COMMERCE (And Still is: Louis’ vision played out 200 years later)
By fostering the very latest fashions the glamour and attraction of the court was increased. Fashion in France became big business, exported to other courts and countries in Europe. French fashion was an extreme style as was fitting to the youth of Louis XIV and the tendency of youth to worship extremism . )
The styles worn at the court of Louis XIV were followed by all who could afford to do so and gradually they were emulated by other European courts.
There was so much French influence on English fashion that protests erupted on the part of English tradesmen and manufacturers. Importation of certain French textiles was banned and attempts were made to distinguish the English style from the French.
A Fashion Culture and Advertising Industry (Theatre de la Mode)
Louis wanted all to know about Paris fashions: diplomatic immunity in time of war sent life-sized fashion dolls to every Court. Dolls were dressed in latest styles. Ladies would have their tailors imitate the clothes, footwear, hats, accessories.
Dressmakers were able to remove the clothes and copy them as patterns.
France as an international force in style traced back to the court of Louis XIV, dolls and "fashion plates" promoted not only luxe articles of clothing and accessories, but also a lifestyle. France became the leader in luxury goods.
By the 1670's, England imported 20 times more luxury goods than it exported to France.
“ Fashion is the Mirror of History: it reflects political, social and economic changes rather than whimsy.”
Louis shrouded himself in resplendent satin coats with gold embroidery and lace sleeves, silk stockings and full-bottomed wigs-- showcased the Sun King's divinely-ordained right to rule France. He also invited his courtiers to watch him dress in an elaborate 90-minute ritual each morning. The highest officials were admitted while he was shaving; bishops, marshals, and provincial governors could enter later. Visiting dignitaries were sometimes awarded the privilege of handing the king his shirt. The ritual afforded the French court a close look at the king's new clothes--significant because nobles affirmed their allegiance by imitating the king--and kept business flowing to the nation's silk looms and lace factories. The dress industry then employed a third of wage-earners in France and if members of the Third Estate were busy stitching sleeves, they had less time to plot rebellion. Male courtiers were required to don silk or velvet coats encrusted with jewels and embroidery, while women squeezed into corseted dresses with puffy sleeves and long trains. Ordinances prohibited untitled aspirants from donning such finery.
One emblematic accessory, which Louis turned into a must-have item among both ladies and gents at court, Was a pair of red high heels, or talons rouges. The fashion, as Mansel explains, advertised a lifestyle of leisure, "demonstrat[ing] that nobles did not dirty their shoes."
Hair, Hurluberlu, and Modesty
When Louis began to grow bald, he started to use wigs, and so did his entourage. Men often mixed false hair with real but it was easier to shave their hair and wear a wig. At first wigs were faithful imitations of natural curled hair. Later they began to increase in size, with hair cascading down the back.
The fashion of the low décolleté in both court dress and “undress” was not maintained without considerable opposition. The neckline was edged with a transparent veiling, similar to a collar, which hid some of the ladies’ anatomy.
Elaborate hairstyles for women were launched by the queen and her ladies as a way to show the superior taste of the French court.
Colbert, French Luxury Products and Economic Idiocy
Making lace for the aristocracy In 1665 Venetian lace makers set up schools of lace-making to train French craftsmen. Making fine lace became an important craft industry Smugglers took French lace into England, to avoid heavy import taxes.
Perfumes from Grasse
After 1665, Louis was persuaded by advisers to persecute Protestants. (Huguenots) In 1685, he declared that the majority of Protestants had been converted to Catholicism. 250,000 fled abroad (15000 to London) several provinces were depopulated. The revocation weakened the French economy and its ruthless application increased the detestation in which England and the Protestant German states held the French king.
GEORGIAN ENGLAND 1714-1830 New Wealth and Rotten Teeth
SUGAR AND GEORGIAN SOCIETY
EXPORTS TO EUROPE
The Entrepôt Trade
17th Century England Wild, Violent and Free
World of Dress Shops and Shopping (1809)
Although ready made apparel was not yet commonly available, cloth manufacture was among the first to be industrialized. Cotton and wool fabrics abounded in many qualities, cheap printed cotton muslin being a particular favorite of the era. By 1811 the import of raw cotton exceeded 90 million pounds (around 45,000 tons), about twice the amount imported in the 1770's Messrs. Harding Howell & Co, was one of the choice linen-drapers (as fabric merchants were called) of the era. This interior print shows the large inventory, with shop assistants, all male, serving the female customers Haggling was still common, but fixed prices were now getting a toe-hold. Buying on credit, "coming to terms," was expected by the rich. Many storekeepers went bankrupt while waiting for a year or more to collect what's due.
AND MANNERED SOCIETY
Positions in Society under threat as Industrial Money Spread to the Middle Classes and their servants
“ Plain country Joan is now turned into a fine London madam, can drink tea, can take snuff and carry herself as high as the best. She must have a hoop too, as well as her mistress and her poor scanty linsey woolsey petticoat is changed into a good silk one, four or five yards wide at the least.” “Decline of the great law of subordination. Daniel Defoe (1659-1731)
“ Vast torrent of luxury changed the manners of the people, inspired in the poor a desire for things they may not and cannot have” Henry Fielding.
Note: To be rich had meant you stayed up late as you could afford candles.
The pursuit of luxury by the masses became an economic driving force. Concept of conspicuous consumption due to increased wealth and the requirement to differentiate oneself.
Elegance of elegant towns
‘ What gown and what head dress she should wear became her chief concern” Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
“ I am quite in the minority I believe: few people seem to value simplicity of dress—show and finery are everything.” (Jane Austen. Emma)
Good China: Cutlery (Instead of just a knife)
Good House Fabrics: Wallpaper
Portraits and Prints
A ‘peacock’ society of fashion prints and new drapery stores.
Dresses slashed to show petticoats (indicator of wealth going deep)
start to despise men in ‘trade’
Gluttony: gout the mark of a gentleman. Taking 3-5 hours for dinner showed you did not have to work.
How to show wealth but still be a trusted professional man
Huge increase in small things: Birmingham and the ’Toy’ industry
Adam Smith Consumption is the sole end and purpose of production.
Rise in ‘Cosmetics’
White lead make-up
Vermillion lip-stick on plaster of Paris. (pole screen to stop make-up melting and giving lead poisoning)
Mouse skin eyebrows
False calves for men
False hips and breasts (Bosom Friends)
False teeth, wood and ivory
Outrageous wigs set with lard (Head scratchers)
Patched to hide small pox and lead ravishing
Yardley perfume to cover stink
YOU CAN SEE BY MY CLOTHES THAT I AM SOBER AND TO BE TRUSTED. AM I WEALTHY? JUST LOOK AT MY WIFE, DO YOU THINK SHE COULD WORK IN THAT DRESS OR EVEN PUT IT ON WITHOUT A MAID?
TALKING OF CRINOLINES (Empress Eugenie Queen of the Crinoline)
‘ Political clothes’ to support French industry
Crinoline Frame by Ms Tavernier in 1856.
Working girls would wear Crinoline on weekends.
MEN had to wear uniform as court dress.
Haute Couture comes into the lexicon as the outward sign of French style and Conspicuous consumption by the wearer.
Napoleon III (1848-1871)
Huge move back to ostentatious fashion after austerity of Republican period.
Attempt to return to court of Louis XIV: it did revive the French luxury good market (Lyons silk)
Rise of ‘Ladies spaces’ Printemps, Gallerie Lafayette Bon Marche.
Window shopping in French – leche vitrines (licking windows)
Huge nuance of dress by time of day to express place in society. Hair not seen during day, hat not worn in evening, gloves longer as day progressed, neckline lower as day progressed. Society restricted by ability to consume.
THE LINK WITH ‘GILDED AGE’ NEW YORK Charles Frederick Worth
Born in Bourne Lincolnshire
Trained as a draper in London
Moved to Paris at 21
Worked as Draper and dressed his wife.
Clothes admired by Princess Pauline Metternich.
Introduced to Eugenie and became her dressmaker
Sensation as a male dressing the Empress.
IRONICAL CONSIDERING FRENCH DISTAIN FOR ENGLISH SOCIETY 1814
Haute Couture $112,000 (2002)
Founded Syndicate Haute Couture
Labeled clothes (Inside) 1858
Cat Walk models
Finest of materials
Never made two of a kind
To ‘be seen’ was vital
Link with New York society.
WHAT IS HAUTE COUTURE? “HIGH SEWING”
To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre Syndicale must follow these rules:
Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
Have a workshop ( atelier ) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
Each season, present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
Jean Paul Gaultier
AND FASHION MOVES ON
AND ON 1880
The Society that Veblen Studied
Unprecedented economic growth (no Taxes) Activities punctuated by trips to Paris.
Railway and Industrial wealth
Worth Dresses coveted. They became THE symbol of conspicuous society. (Average of $10,000 in 1900)
Average society woman would buy 720 dresses each year.
It was her ‘job’ to represent the wealth and position of the family.
‘ Society pages’ reported on the fashions. First ‘celebrity martyrs
Huge endowments to art, libraries and good works.
Great Wealth in a short period. Not accepted by high society (Southern Society, Penn, Lodges, Cabbots) so made their own rules.
Astor: Banking, Real Estate. Eden Farm ran from what is now 42 nd to 46 th and Broadway (Original John Jacob born Waldorf Germany)
Armor/Swift: Canning and Meat Packing (green Bay Packers)
Vanderbilt (The Commodore) Railroads (Consuelo Vanderbilt married Duke of Marlborough)
Goldman & Sachs : Banking
Rothschild (Hitler’s may come and go but Rothschild goes on forever)
Victoria Leiter marred Lord Curzon (Vicereine of India)
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Carnegie US Steel
ROBBER BARONS AND BENEFACTORS
J P Morgan Banking
AND AT THE APEX OF SOCIETY
Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (1830-1908), also known as " The Mrs. Astor," was the matron of New York and Newport society.
Mrs. Astor was born Caroline Webster Schermerhorn in New York City. Mrs. Astor was from a wealthy merchant family whose ancestors were among New York's first Dutch settlers. Mrs. Astor married WILLIAM BACKHOUSE ASTOR Jr. in 1853.
The Gilded Age
Mrs. Astor created " the Four Hundred," An invitation to one of Mrs. Astor's events solidified one's status as a member of upper-class society.
Mrs. Astor shunned anyone who was not a member of the Four Hundred. But she did make one exception. In 1883, Alva Vanderbilt organized a masquerade ball in New York during the winter season but did not invite the Astors' daughter Caroline. Mrs. Astor acquiesced and called on the Vanderbilts in return for an invitation to the Vanderbilt ball. In so doing, Mrs. Astor allowed the newly monied Vanderbilts into the upper echelon of society.
OF COURSE IT IS ALL DIFFERENT NOW!!!!!
CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION AND THE THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS OR WHY ALLIGATORS ARE “TACKY”