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Title: In Woolf's clothing : an exploration of clothes and fashion in Virginia Woolf's fiction
Author: Nicholson, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 5534
Awarding Body: Anglia Ruskin University
Current Institution: Anglia Ruskin University
Date of Award: 2013
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This inter-disciplinary study explores the role of dress and fashion in the novels of Virginia Woolf, examining them in a chronological sequence. I will show how Woolf’s own concerns with dress are reflected in her work in the development of her Modernist method of writing which employs clothing as particularly apt imagery with which to evoke tensions of surface and depth, and perception and reality. The investigation begins with a summary of previous discussions regarding the historical, social and psychological significance of dress, noting that the role of clothing in fiction is a comparatively under-investigated area. This study makes the nine major novels its primary focus, together with selected short stories, and it draws upon analysis from the fields of costume history, socio-cultural studies and literary criticism to explore and evaluate Woolf’s use of clothes in her fiction. Woolf’s open criticism of the ‘materialist’ writing of Victorian and Edwardian novelists such as Arnold Bennett led her to adopt a more sparing and subtle use of dress as a means of portraying character, drawing not merely upon the visual aspect but also upon the symbolic, sensual and psychological dimensions of wearing a garment, culminating in a phenomenon she described as ‘frock consciousness’. In this acknowledgement of the potential of clothing to influence human consciousness and psychology Woolf simultaneously reflects concerns of her time and anticipates feminist ‘reclaiming’ of fashion and dress as legitimate areas of academic study by late-twentieth-century writers such as Elizabeth Wilson. Clair Hughes writes that “novelists do not send their characters naked into the world, though critics have often acted as though they do.” (6). By placing dress at the centre of a consideration of Woolf’s fiction it opens up these texts to new readings and interpretations, to see them ‘in Woolf’s clothing’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: sartorial ; modernist ; frock consciousness ; materiality ; costume