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Fashion and Dress Culture



This article summarises the significant critical works on fashion and dress culture in 19th-century literature published during the last 10 years, identifying the key trends in this area of scholarship, including work on shopping and consumption, the ‘shopgirl’ and the needlewoman, and reform movements such as the Rational and Aesthetic dress movements. During the 19th century, dress was a battleground on which a number of key debates were fought and contested. But whilst fashion and art historians have long been interested in this period, literary studies has tended to overlook dress, perhaps due to fashion being associated with shallowness and triviality. Fortunately, in the last 10 years, there has been a noticeable increase in critical work that focuses on the important role of fashion and dress in 19th-century literature and culture. Such work moves beyond viewing dress as merely a metaphor or symbolic device – instead approaching dress as a cultural phenomenon worthy of attention in its own right.