Fashion in the Formative Years of Parisian Surrealism

The Dress of Time, the Dress of Space


  • Krzysztof Fijalkowski Norwich University of the Arts


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.

Author Biography

Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Norwich University of the Arts

Krzysztof Fijalkowski is Professor of Visual Culture at Norwich University of the Arts, United Kingdom. His major area of research and publication has been the history and theory of Surrealism, leading to a range of publications in books, academic journals and exhibition catalogues (for institutions such as Tate, V&A, Vitra Design Museum and Barbican Galleries). Recent areas of particular interest have included the relationships between Surrealism and design; Surrealism in Central and Eastern Europe; and Surrealism and photography.