Cover image for Nothing in itself : complexions of fashion
Nothing in itself : complexions of fashion
Blau, Herbert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Bloomington, Ind. : Indiana University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 302 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT596 .B56 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"This is a wonderful book not 'just' about fashion but modernism,
postmodernity, the arts and popular culture, design and technology, biology
and culturalism. It has a lot to say about ideas in fashion (reflections on
theories of performativity, temporality, difference, repetition,
class/gender relations, and the recessive status of Beauty today, organize
the chapters), and about fashion in ideas. And it's about how we might write
cultural history for a 'posthistorical' time." --Meaghan Morris

Beyond the theatricality of fashion, or its commerce, are other seductive issues that come with dress in its fascination-effect, including the validities, vanities, and deceits of appearance. No more than appearance, "nothing in itself," that fashion has substance, complex and elusive substance, is the thematic of this book, putting another complexion on the subject, the look, and the look that incites the look, in high style, street style, classical elegance or fetishistic chic, from farthingale and corset to power suits and grunge.

Author Notes

Herbert Blau is Distinguished Professor of English and Modern Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has also had a distinguished career in the professional theater, as co-founder and co-director of The Actor's Workshop of San Francisco, co-director of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, New York, and artistic director of the experimental group Kraken. His most recent books are The Audience and To all Appearances: Ideology and Performance.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Blau has documented in print a lifetime of thoughts, analyses, and critiques on the mysteries of fashion. For him, fashion illustrates many paradoxes of the human condition, e.g., constantly changing yet eternal, frivolous yet profound, moral and seductive, personal yet collective, politically democratic yet pluralistically tyrannical. Fashion success leads to its doom. This brief, thought-provoking gathering of personal musings speculates on such topics as metaphysics of the hemlines, ephemerality of appearances, allegory of the corset, theories of repetition, class-gender relations, and multiculturalism--all of which are reflected in what and why people wear clothing. Blau's view of culture may stem from years of working on theater productions, which in themselves seem to share some of the same oxymorons as fashion. Like many artists who know but break traditional rules, Blau reflects in readable prose an expansive mind not always confined by Western logic or grammatical restrictions. His extensive footnotes reveal a wide, interdisciplinary exposure to history, literature, the arts, sociology, and anthropology--references from the Middle Ages to yesterday. For Blau, fashion is "nothing in itself" yet "everything in itself." Even the black-and-white photo captions philosophize. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. B. Chico Regis University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: Troubling over Appearancesp. 1
1. The New Look and the Perpetual Blushp. 38
2. Metaphysics of the Hemline: Temporality, Modernity, and the Horror Vacuip. 70
3. Dressing Up, Dressing Down: "Why do you want me to carry on?"p. 113
4. Vicissitudes of the Lookp. 163
5. What Remains to Be Seenp. 209
Notesp. 255
Indexp. 293