Empress Elisabeth (‘Sisi’) of Austria and Patriotic Fashionism


  • Christopher M. VanDemark New York University




Empress Elisabeth, Habsburg Monarchy, fashion and politics, fashion and nationalism, 1867 Compromise


In this article, Christopher VanDemark explores the intersections between nationalism, fashion, and the royal figure in Hungary between 1857 and the Compromise of 1867. Focusing on aesthetics as a vehicle for feminine power at a critical junction in Hungarian history, VanDemark contextualizes Empress Elisabeth’s role in engendering a revised political schema in the Habsburg sphere. Foreseeing the power of emblematic politics, the young Empress adeptly situated herself between the Hungarians and the Austrians to recast the Hungarian martyrology narrative promulgated after the failed revolution of 1848. Eminent Hungarian newspapers such as the Pesti Napló, Pester Lloyd, and the Vasárnapi Újság form the backbone of this article, as publications such as these facilitated the dissemination of patriotic sentiment while simultaneously exulting the efficacy of symbolic fashions. The topic of study engages with contemporary works on nationalism, which emphasize gender and aesthetics, and contributes to the emerging body of scholarship on important women in Hungarian history. Seminal texts by Catherine Brice, Sara Maza, Abby Zanger, and Lynn Hunt compliment the wider objective of this brief analysis, namely, the notion that the Queen’s body can both enhance and reform monarchical power within a nineteenth-century milieu.






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