I love the novels of Emile Zola. The first one I read was "L'oeuvre" which was required reading at Goldfield's. I read it in english. Next I began "Au Bonheur des Dames" in English but didn't finish it. This year I read it in french. When I first started to read in french I bought children's books. I think I've come a long way! I used to have to look up every 10th word. Now whenever I come across a word I don't understand I ask my husband or family and sometimes we all have to look it up! That means my french is pretty good. The last Zola that I read was La Curée. Next I'm going to try to read all 20 of the series Family Rougon-Macquart in chronological order. It's not really important what order you read them, but I thought I might find the thread this time.
In the latter two books I mentioned there are a lot of beautiful descriptions of women's fashion, lace, enormous dresses, corsets, ribbons and finery.
The novels are set around the period known as "La Belle Epoque". This period started around 1896 at the end of a nasty economic depression and ended in 1914 at the eve of the first world war. The 1900 Universal Expo was held in Paris and art and fashion was in a beautiful renaissance.