It is rare that an important contribution by a major author goes unrecorded by bibliographers, unrecognized by historians, and ultimately unappreciated by the modern reader. Rarer still if the author is Oscar Wilde, the famous poet, writer, dramatist, and much quoted wit, who has been the subject of continual interest and analysis since his death in 1900.
Oscar Wilde is an artist and personality who is still relevant today: a virtual industry has built up around him. Hundreds of books have been written about various aspects of his life, and large volumes of scholarly research into his works continue to be published. So it would be surprising if a central work by Wilde has lain dormant until now. But such has been the fate of his essay—The Philosophy Of Dress—which first appeared in the New-York Tribune in 1885.
That essay now forms the centerpiece to this unique collection of Wilde’s theories on dress. But the work is not only important as a discovered piece of writing, it is also essentially the missing text of Wilde’s many spoken lectures on Dress that were thought to have been unrecorded.
In addition to the essay, this book contains generously annotated and illustrated chapters that analyze the importance of dress in the historical context of Wilde’s career, together with a comprehensive review of the inspiration, trends, and source material that informed his philosophy. As a compendium there are also several period articles by Wilde on dress and fashion, along with related, but rarely published, letters on the subject that together form an instructional and entertaining discourse between Wilde and the other correspondents.
The result is a thorough examination of Wilde’s relationship to dress—a previously overlooked aspect in Wilde studies—which should prove to be of interest not only to Wilde scholars, but also to anyone who enjoys his style of writing. Oscar Wilde continues to be favorably reappraised as one of the most culturally avant garde tastemakers of the late nineteenth century. In an ever fashion-conscious world it is fitting that the themes explored, like the author himself, are still relevant. In this respect the book will also be of historical value to fashion students, historians, and practitioners.