ABSTRACT This essay looks at the mid-nineteenth-century American bourgeois mania for imitating ““OldWorld”” aristocratic fashion, a trend exemplied by the sartorial antics of celebrated New York dandy and magazinist Nathaniel Parker Willis. Although Willis, and bourgeois Europhilia generally, are usually regarded by critics as a rather sad, colonial throwback, the cult of Old World imitation, I argue, was very much a vernacular phenomenon, one whose aim was to elaborate fakery itself as a principle of personal authenticity. Exported to the scene of transatlantic cultural relations via Willis's travelogues in the 1830s, the cult of fakery produced the political opposite of what historians generally assume. Neither a sign of naive colonial dependence nor a form of troubled engagement, the bourgeoisie's showy Europhilia developed fakery as a principle of national potency and global ascendance.
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Research Article| February 01 2004
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SANDRA TOMC; Restyling an Old World: Nathaniel Parker Willis and Metropolitan Fashion in the Antebellum United States. Representations 1 February 2004; 85 (1): 98–124. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2004.85.1.98
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