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CURRENT READING: THE LANGUAGE OF FASHION: ROLAND BARTHES

Chanel, it is said, keeps fashion on the edge of barbarism all the more to overwhelm it with all the values of the classical.Chanel, it is said, keeps fashion on the edge of barbarism all the more to overwhelm it with all the values of the classical.

If today you open a history of our literature, you should find there the name of a new classical author: Coco Chanel. Chanel does not write with paper and ink (except in her leisure time), but with material, with forms and with colours; however, this does not stop her being commonly attributed with the authority and the panache of a writer of the classical age: elegant like Racine, Jansenist like Pascal (whom she quotes), philosophical like La Rochefoucauld (whom she imitates by delivering her own maxims to the public), sensitive like Madame de Sévigné and, finally, rebellious like the ‘Grande mademoiselle’ whose nickname and function she borrows (see for example her recent declarations of war on fashion designers).2 Chanel, it is said, keeps fashion on the edge of barbarism all the more to overwhelm it with all the values of the classical order: reason, nature, permanence, the desire to charm and not to surprise; people are pleased to see Chanel in the pages of the Figaro newspaper where she occupies, alongside Cocteau, the fringes of polite culture.

Roland Barthes

Taste is a dictatorship.

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