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In Stendhal’s novel of modern resolution, The Red and the Black, Julien Sorel is faced with choosing between the black cassock of the clergy and the valorous red of Napoleon’s soldiers. Sorel makes a rueful choice of the black, but his sartorial decision is the matrix of a very modern conflict between passion and the social order. The style of dress of the military has enchanted the modern imagination. Despite the waste manifest in war, modern culture has realized its belligerent, aggressive style as an option tinged with sentiments of courage and honor. Stephen Crane’s paean to the warrior, The Red Badge of Courage, renders war as exceptional intensity and fervor: Within him, as he hurled himself forward, was born a love, a despairing fondness for this flag which was near him. It was a creation of beauty and invulnerability.” War renders heroes; war tenders fortitude. Moreover, war offers a modern wardrobe the efficacy of virtue-imbued, tested, sentimental epic dress. Again and again, war’s fiery raiment has become a figure for modern apparel.
Swords into Ploughshares strives neither to bury nor to praise war, but one cannot ignore the impact of the military on modern clothing. Effectively the military is more than a collective glory. It is a testing ground for the utility and accomodationg of clothing that may be brough home into civilian service.This catalogue accompanying a 1995 exhibition of the same name at The Metropolitan Museum of Art includes full-color illustrations of many of the fashions shown and accompanying commentary by the curators. [This book was originally published in 1995 and has gone out of print. This edition is a print-on-demand version of the original book.]
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