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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26449

Title: The Material Culture of Women's Accessories: Middle-class Performance, Race Formation and Feminine Display, 1830-1920
Authors: Beaujot, Ariel
Advisor: Loeb, Lori
Department: History
Keywords: women
material culture
accessories
fashion
gender
identity
race
class
Issue Date: 7-Mar-2011
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the cultural meaning ascribed to feminine fashionable objects such as gloves, fans, parasols and vanity sets. I pay particular attention to issues of middle-class formation, the performance of gender, and the materiality of race, empire and colonialism. While these issues lie at the heart of British historiography, this project is written from a unique perspective which privileges cultural artifacts through material culture analysis. While the emergence of the middle class is typically studied as a masculine/public phenomenon, this project corrects the overemphasis on male activity by showing that middle-class women created a distinctive ‘look’ for their class via the consumption of specific goods and through participation in daily beauty rituals. Adding to these ideas, I argue that Victorian women performed a distinct type of femininity represented as passivity, asexuality, innocence, and leisure. By studying the repetitive gestures, poses and consumption practices of middle-class women, I show that certain corporeal acts helped to create Victorian femininity. This work also suggests that women participated in the British colonial project by consuming objects that were represented in the Victorian imagination as imperial spoils. As such, I argue that imperialism penetrated the everyday lives of Britons through several everyday objects. Empire building also created anxieties surrounding questions of race. Women’s accessories, such as gloves and parasols, helped British women to maintain their whiteness, an important way of distinguishing the ‘civilized’ Britons from the ‘uncivilized’ tanned colonial peoples. Overall this project showed that within the everyday objects consumed by women we can identify the anxieties, hopes and dreams of Victorians.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26449
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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