Emile Zola in the House of Worth: Fashion and Scandal in the Second Empire

So, there was this guy back when Napoleon III was the emperor of France named Frederick Worth. This guy is considered to be the “Father of Haute Couture” because, well, he was. He DOMINATED Parisian fashion back then. I mean, just look at that dress, it’s amazing.

Worth and his beautifully excessive dresses fell in line perfectly Nappy 3’s attempt to modernize France, especially Paris, and make it a showpiece of Europe. The France Napoleon III created was one of excess, real estate speculation, lavishness, and general debauchery.

A man named Émile Zola wrote about this in his famous novel, The Kill, which is a fictitious story about people trapped in the gaudy world of Paris at the time; as he puts it, “a time of feverish pleasure and blind expenditure.” It’s not a moral story so much as it is a tragedy, where the people who cause the most damage typically get off easy.

How do these things really fit together? Well, here’s the official event description:

During this event Dr. Robert Barsky will discuss Frederick Worth’s fashion house with reference to Zola’s description, and weave for the audience a tale of fashion, debt, lust, and disaster as expressed in both fiction and reality.

As an avid reader of historical fiction, this event gets me straight-up giddy. I love being able to compare a novel to the time period surrounding it; it makes it feel more real. If you dig that sort of thing too then this is the event for you.

This lecture will take place at the Frist Center on Thursday August 26th at 6:30pm.


Yes, I know that there should be an accent in Émile in the title of this post, but for some reason WordPress doesn’t recognize it and turns it into “mile.”


About Emily

Emily (Founder/Editor in Chief) : Emily is a graduate from Belmont University, where she majored in Music Business. She’s originally from rural Ohio, where there are many cows, a river, and one vineyard. Though she moved to Seattle in 2015, Emily maintains a love of both Nashville and free things, and is actively looking for contributors for NashvilleForFree.com. If you're interested, reach out to her at emily@nashvilleforfree.com.