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Liberty Equality Fashion

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Date and time
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cambridge Forum takes a look at three French female visionaries who led a revolution against women’s garments, that had previously limited and restricted their bodies.  By releasing women from their physical “prisons” they were able to accelerate the political liberation of their minds.

Anne Higonnet, author of Liberty Equality Fashion, is professor of art history at Barnard College and teaches an incredibly popular course on the history of clothing.
This new book grew out of Higonnet's class and archival research she did at the Morgan Library in Manhattan, where she discovered a complete set of Journal des dames et des modes fashion plates - the rarest fashion plates in the world - from the French revolutionary era, providing the ultimate evidence for what was generally fashionable, week by week, during the years dominated by Joséphine Bonaparte, future Empress of France, Térézia Tallien, the most beautiful woman in Europe, and Juliette Récamier, muse of intellectuals.

The discovery of these plates upended the dominant understanding of the era.
From one year to the next, these fashion revolutionaries led a rebellion against corsets, petticoats, and enormous skirts. Their flowing garments not only embodied freedom for modern women, but also marked the emergence of global capitalism, shopping culture, and the rise of powerful style influencers. In their starred reviews, Publishers Weekly says the book is “as rigorous as it is fun” while Kirkus commends Higonnet’s “meticulous research [and] energetic prose.” 

Join Cambridge Forum and Anne Higonnet in examining how politics, economics, and identity merged during the French Revolution and heralded a new feminism that is the antecedent to current, popular modes of self-expression and self-empowerment.


Anne Higonnet is professor of art history at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she teaches a course called “Clothing.” She has received many awards, including Guggenheim and Harvard Radcliffe Institute fellowships.

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