Fashion in the Formative Years of Parisian Surrealism
The Dress of Time, the Dress of Space
While the majority of the scholarship around surrealist relationships with fashion look at the era of the 1930s onwards, this article considers the first period of surrealism during the 1920s, including its prehistory in the mouvement flou as it emerged via Paris Dada and Littérature, asking two related questions: what was the presence and status of the discourse of fashion for surrealism during these formative years; and in what kinds of fashion practices did its members engage? In response to the first of these, an examination of the group’s journals, publications and documents suggests that fashion stands as a significant and abiding area of interest for the group and its members. Writings by André Breton, Louis Aragon, René Crevel and others are correlated with surrealist images and artworks to reflect upon this sustained and informed engagement with men’s and above all women’s fashion, and suggest a particularly keen awareness of the changes in clothing styles over the recent past. The second question has rarely been asked in a systematic way: how did the early Parisian surrealists reflect these interests in their own day-to-day fashion choices and preferences? Given that the majority of the early Parisian surrealist group was male, the focus here is predominantly on men’s fashion, and analysis of memoirs, correspondence and documents such as the photographs taken in the Bureau de recherches surréalistes provides evidence of collective and individual positions. The fashion choices of Simone and André Breton form a particular area of concern, revealing some nuanced developments and unorthodox moments in their day-to-day attitudes.