About this course

Corsets and crinolines. Top hats and tailcoats. Pockets and purses. How did these material objects and other fads and fashions in nineteenth-century British dress help shape expectations about identity in the Victorian era, especially as it related to social class, gender, race, and nationality? Drawing on the world-class collection housed by the Fashion Museum in Bath, we will examine actual period costumes alongside literature that demonstrates how dress in the nineteenth century indicated social position, consolidated ideas about gender, and demarcated what it meant to be British. Against the background of a burgeoning interest among the Victorians in consumer culture and the rise of the department store, we will analyze Christina Rossetti’s poetry for evidence of anxieties about this new consumerism, read novels by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Charles Dickens that explore how dress shapes gendered identities, and examine fin-de-siècle tensions related to rational dress reform in George Egerton’s short stories and dandy culture in Oscar Wilde’s plays. Other facets of Victorian print and material culture, including fashion magazines, paintings, cartoons, and articles of dress will be scrutinized alongside this literature.

The course includes a study trip to London, where we will take a walking tour of Dickensian London, explore nineteenth-century fashions at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and visit London’s iconic department store, Harrods, which first opened its doors in the nineteenth century.

Professor: Janet Myers, Professor of English, Elon University, NC Email: jmyers@elon.edu


Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.