Book review: Nora Veszpremi on Rebecca Houze, Textiles, Fashion, and Design Reform in Austria–Hungary before the First World War, Ashgate 2015
National ornament and the imperial masquerade
Rebecca Houze, Textiles, Fashion, and Design Reform in Austria–Hungary before the First World War: Principles of Dress, Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015, 384 pp., 79 col. plates, 109 b. & w. illus., £85.00 hdbk ISBN 978-1-4094-3668-3.
Nóra Veszprémi 13/NV1
Abstract: Rebecca Houze’s book is a thoroughly researched and original study of the impact of design reform on textile production and fashion in Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which centres its argument around the Bekleidungsprinzip (“principle of dress”) put forward by Gottfried Semper. It discusses the role of newly founded applied arts museums, industrial exhibitions, the concept of “house industry,” and the upsurge of interest in folk crafts in this process, while also placing a strong emphasis on the role of women as producers of textiles. One of the main virtues of the book is its wide scope which manages to investigate endeavours informed by different and sometimes opposed national and imperial interests in their complicated interconnectedness. It is a pity that this broad perspective is narrowed down in the second part of the book which focuses on with turn-of-the-century Vienna and does not deal with modernist tendencies in Hungarian design. Nevertheless, this part of the book also provides a fascinating discussion of its own subject, and the monograph as a whole is a valuable contribution to its field of study.
Keywords: Austria-Hungary, design reform, applied arts, design museums, fashion, Gottfried Semper, folk culture