Describing the Dress of Women: Author’s Notes on the Development of Gender, Is A Well-Researched Topic, It Is To Be Used As A Guide Or Framework For Your Research.
This thesis is an examination of how authors of the late Victorian and early Twentieth Century describe the embodied and mental effects of the nature of women’s clothing through works of fiction and nonfiction. Through this analysis, I argue that clothing serves as a mechanism to oppress women by eliminating concrete and philosophical access to
wealth and necessities as well as by instigating acts of violence upon a developing body through stricture and hygiene. I examine the ways that feminine dress, from youth through adulthood, shapes the way women view themselves, and in turn has a reciprocal effect on how they view their place in the world. I work primarily through the writing of Charlotte
Perkins Gilman, but use George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to give contextual contrast to my arguments. In addition, I employ a variety of methods of literary theory, drawing primarily from a cultural materialist and Marxist perspective of embodiment and means, but also diving into esoteric views of literary narratives, fashion theory, and the history of fashion. I conclude that the patriarchal imposition placed upon women’s garments is emblematic of the historical, patriarchal oppression.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: DESCRIBING THE DRESS OF WOMEN: AUTHOR’S NOTES ON THE
DEVELOPMENT OF GENDER 1
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: 6
THE SHAPING OF GILMAN: 8
DRESS AND GILMAN: 12
LINGUISTIC CHOICE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS 18
POCKETS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE 22
ADVERTISEMENTS AS NARRATIVE 33
ELIOT’S MIDDLEMARCH 37
POCKETS FULL OF VIOLENCE IN WOOLF’S DALLOWAY 44
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A FIXATION BECOMES A POINT OF PROCESS FOR AN AUTHOR 47