Queerness in Parisian Maisons de Haute Couture

A ficto-critical approach to belle époque boutiques as queer(ed) spaces

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This work aims to infuse theoretical knowledge of queer space to further the understanding of the history of luxury retail stores. It analyses certain spaces of a metropolis inconspicuously connected to the history of fashion, by taking three Parisian boutiques of influential designers in the belle époque as examples of the origin of maison de haute couture culture: maisons Worth, Paquin and Poiret. In a pioneering attempt, while combining queer historical literature with a ficto-critical approach, this work strives to clarify the ties that bind queerness and boutique history together. Interactions between architecture and queerness are sought out in books and articles on queer space, such as the eponymous literature of Betsky (1997), and linked to fashion historical literature, i.a. Joseph (2014), Steele (1988, 2013) and Vänskä (2014). The findings of this thesis exemplify the knowledge gap that seems to be present in the connection between interior space, fashion and queerness. Moreover, the theoretical framework of what queer space entails, is employed to show the evocative qualities of the discussed boutiques, using definitions of closet and mirror space, fabricated fantasies and collections as queer modernist interiors. Despite the fluid definition of queerness complicating the forming of rigid answers, this research contends that there is a multiplicity of indications connecting queerness to the boutiques of the belle époque.