'A sufficiency of clothing': Dress and domesticity in Victorian Britain

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Abstract

The distinctions between 'high' and 'low' dress in Victorian times are discussed with the elite concentrating on an elegant and affluent appearance and the poor seen in more practical, commonplace terms. Poor Women and Dress: Texts and Contexts examines the relationship between body and dress, and moves on to the amount of time poor women spent on clothing production and care through sewing and laundering. Laundresses were the fourth largest group of employed women in 1841. Economic issues and the preservation of health are explored, with the importance of needlecraft emphasised. Respectability was equally a vital aspiration for poor women with several issues examined here. Dress, Domesticity and the Body then follows, with the feminine role described in the linkage of body, dress and the maintenance of clothing. The dress of women agricultural labourers and the social significance of their appearance are explored. Dress differences between rich and poor are summarised in conclusion, again with the appropriate implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalTextile History
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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