This last is from an essay that focuses particularly on the marchandes de modes (elevated female fashion retailers), and among them Rose Bertin, Marie Antoinette's dressmaker. It explains the tension around the individual and the role.
"Marchandes de modes like Rose Bertin were... accused of haughtiness and impertinence. When a male aristocrat complained of the cost of his wife's clothes, Rose Bertin is said to have retorted 'Oh! is Vernet [a celebrated male painter] paid only according to the cost of his canvas and colours?' When marchandes de modes claimed to posess genius and imagination as well as the skills of cutting and sewing were aristrocratic female customers to be thought of as their clientrs or patrons? And who, ultimately controlled fashion, aristocrats or shop-girls? Contemporaries feared that, freed from the twin pillars of male reason and aristocratic refinement, females marchandes de modes would not only corrupt the young women who worked in their shops and their female customers, as well as French taste, but ultimately imperil the economy."
Frustratingly, the essay says nothing of Rose's fate. (Wikipedia fills that gap - she fled to London for a pile, and eventually died peacefully in 1813.)
The next essay crosses the Channel, and looks at how gendered wardrobes played out in English politics - exploring the statement by John Bowles that English manliness derived from the constitution. It presents the struggle for broader representation of men as a struggle between the aristocracy and the middle classes over which was the more sobre, stately and manly. "In middle-class discourse, as in aristocratic discourse, temperance and patriotism still went in hand in hand, were still threatened by luxuury and enervation." Thus early feminists faced a twin problem in trying to claim any space in the public realm - it was a site where manliness ruled and was exaggerated, and feminity was defined by its association with luxury (with elite women being the guardians of fashion to which other classes were expected to moderately aspire). Thus "early feminists had to both denaturalise the feminisation of fashion and degender virtue".
One of the most powerful and telling essays, "The other side of Venus: the visual economy of feminine display," by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, looks at early erotic/pornographic art. Whipping around some of the scholarship around this subject, she notes how "the construction of modern femininity is itself aligned with a condition of exaggerated specularity, a condition hypothesized by Luce Irigaray and famously described by Laura Mulvey as 'to-be-looked-at-ness". She also quotes Walter Benjamin: "To desire the fashionable, purchasable women-as-thing is to desire exchange-value itself, that is, the very essence of capitalism." Solomon-Godeau concludes: "Psychic and commodity fetish are thus unified, mutually implicated (from the Latin implicare, "to be folded within") in the erotic spectacle of a reified feminity itself produced in commodity form." (This is illustrated by a stunning but deeply disturbing print, "Grandville's" "Venus at the Opera", 1844). She finds a match between the erotic/pornographic female image and the basic commodity: "both image and commodity promise and withhold satisfaction while endlessly provoking desire".