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Title: Clothing middle-class women : dress, gender and identity in mid-Victorian England, c. 1851-1875
Author: Yen, Ya-Lei
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 6827
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis analyses the role played by clothes within the socio-cultural context of middle-class women's lives in mid-Victorian England, c. 1851-75. By drawing on a broad range of sources, including a survey of prescriptive literature and women's magazines, novels, letters, diaries, account books, clothing bills, the records of a tailor and a dressmaker, cartoons, fashion plates, photographs, paintings, advertisements, inventories and surviving objects, it also explores the material culture of dress history. After the historiographical introduction, Chapter One argues that to be respectable, mid-Victorian middle-class women had to dress according to social morals and etiquette. Chapter Two explores how middle-class women's magazines used language to construct the world of fashion, how they portrayed feminine beauty, how women readers reacted to such portrayals of their clothes, and what surviving dresses reveal about the values of mid-Victorian women. Chapter Three reveals the way middle-class women used their personal photographs to communicate with their relatives, friends and lovers, and explores how photographs represent the ideology of middle-class womanhood, how middle-class women used dress to represent their identity, and what the difference was between fashion in photographs, magazines and reality. Chapter Four argues that for middle-class women, home sewing was not only a feminine virtue and duty, but also a fashionable activity and a means of expression, and examines how advertisers created the link between middle-class women and the sewing machine, as well as critics' views on machine sewing. Chapter Five reveals that through symbolic dress consumption, middle-class women constructed and maintained their gender, as well as personal and social identities. Chapter Six analyses the relationship between sports, including bathing, swimming, horse riding, hunting, shooting, archery, croquet, and skating, sportswear and gender. Overall, this thesis shows how clothes were used to construct the respectability of mid-Victorian middle-class Englishwomen.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Material Culture ; Dress History ; Visual culture