Tuesday, November 17, 2009

La Dernière Mode

La Dernière Mode was a limited edition fashion magazine/art project created by 19th century poet Stéphane Mallarmé. Jonathan Crary explains: "In 1874 Stéphane Mallarmé wrote, edited, and designed the first eight issues of a fashion magazine called La Dernière Mode. With the exception of a few poems and short stories by friends he wrote everything, using pseudonyms such as Marguerite de Ponty, Miss Satin, Ix, and Le Chef de bouche chez Brébant. The magazine covered theater, opera, dance, music, food, interior decoration, and of course, fashion and fashion theory. The line between real and contrived was thin and Mallarmé’s sincerity as a fashion writer, critic, editor, and designer has perplexed his contemporaries and scholars alike. La Dernière Mode was definitely a real magazine with a subscription base and a dossier at the police department. But there was a coup de bluff: each issue claimed to be a magazine in its second year, the first of which was limited solely to engravings and lithographs. In the correspondence section of the sample issue Mme de Ponty wrote that the majority of letters from subscribers had asked for verbal descriptions of images previously published without text. The existence of the “first” year of the magazine hasn’t been completely disproved—but letters to the editor, in the first issue!"

Stéphane Mallarmé, Le Hasard, 1881

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was a French poet and critic. He was known as a symbolist who inspired both Dada and the Surrealists. He was simply a poor teacher but began to host salons at his home that attracted Yeats and Rilke. He was part of the fin de siecle French style. He translated Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven into French but it has been said that Mallarmé cannot be translated into English because his poems are based on phoenetic ambiguity.

In 1874, Mallarmé begins the magazine almost as an art project, with complete creative control. The aesthetic is modeled after other catalogues and magazines. The popular ad and news illustrator Edmond Morin worked with Mallarmé. The aesthetic looks like any other fashion media of the period and shows the gothic revival influence of the period.

Edmond Morin, Le Monde Illustré (Mars 1885) - Original en Couleur

Printemps publication, 1874 and and La Dernière Mode, 1874

Goya, Caprichos Plate 43, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, 1797 and La Dernière Mode, 1874

Mallarmé paid his own money at first and printed about 3,000 copies, but he never publicly claimed the magazine. His use of false female names is a reverse gesture of some female writers in the same era who took male names.

Excerpt from La Dernière Mode, 1874

When Mallarmé’s magazine was released in 1874, Napoleon III had just been ousted. France had no capital and the government was being resolved. 1875 saw the innauguration of the grand Palais Garnier. 19th century fashion was connected to the role of theater, especially in French society where clothing changed from hotel to chateau to society.

Anonymous, Inauguration du Palais Garnier en 1875

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