Professor Paul Scott has been awarded competitive summer funding to work in Paris on a project entitled “Décolletage Disputes in Early Modern France”. He has been awarded a Hall Center for the Humanities Faculty Research Travel Grant in addition to a KU International Affairs International Travel Fund for Humanities Research.
This is the first project to be exclusively devoted to the vitriolic backlash in France against the evolution of women’s dress to incorporate a décolleté or plunging neckline. The décolleté had occurred as a sporadic fashion fixture then became the default cut for dresses during the second half of the seventeenth century. A number of prominent clerics railed against the development through pulpit oratory and in theological treatises and Paul argues that some of these authors consciously played on the quirky novelty of clergy being fixated on the latest trends and cultivated an air of eccentricity in order to appeal to their audience (and boost sales and notoriety). Paul also suggests these publications established a template of misogynist critiques of women’s dress that has profoundly permeated Western attitudes in subsequent centuries. In particular, they forged a narrative that women dressing in a “provocative” way are responsible for violent verbal and physical responses. In short, the debate not only formulated and popularized a form of victim-blaming but it also gave it religious respectability.
Paul will work at various libraries and archives in Paris, including the print department of the Palais Galliera within Paris’s fashion museum, the Musée de la Mode (https://www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en/page-daccueil). Paul is also directing the Paris Summer Language Institute with 20 students this summer.