Describing Women’s Clothing in Eighteenth-Century England
Title Details

222 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

8 b/w illus, 5 graphs.

Series: Pasold Studies in Textile, Dress and Fashion History

Series Vol. Number: 2

Imprint: Boydell Press

Describing Women’s Clothing in Eighteenth-Century England

by Elizabeth Spencer

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Uncovers sources from the parish pauper to the gentlewoman to consider relationships with clothing across the social hierarchy in the long eighteenth century.

Descriptions of women's clothing increasingly circulated across textual genres and beyond in eighteenth-century England. This book explores the significance of these descriptions across a range of sources including wills, newspapers, accounts, court records, and the records of the old poor law.

Attention has rested on women literate and wealthy enough to leave behind textual or material traces, but this book ranges from the parish pauper to the gentlewoman to consider descriptive languages, rhetorical strategies, and relationships with clothing across the social hierarchy. It explores how women described their own clothing, but also looks at how it was described by overseers, family members, retailers, and even strangers. It shows that we must look beyond isolated descriptions to how, why, and who was describing clothing to understand its role. Chapters uncover themes of material obligation, expectation, and entitlement.

This book also contributes to our understanding of the material literacy of eighteenth-century consumers. It traces the role of textual description in this dissemination of knowledge about clothing, but also alerts us to what was happening beyond the written word, drawing attention to the communication of multisensory information. Above all, it demonstrates that there remains much still to be unpicked from textual sources.
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Conventions
Abbreviations
Introduction
1. Bequeathed, Lost, Stolen
2. Accounting for the Wardrobe
3. The Pauper Wardrobe
4. Linen
5. Clothing and Conflict
Conclusion
Appendix 1. Terms used to describe clothing in wills proved by the Dean and Chapter Court of York, 1686-1830
Appendix 2. Terms used to describe clothing in lost advertisements placed in the Daily Advertiser, 1731-96
Appendix 3. Terms used to describe textiles in 404 overseers' vouchers, 1769-1837
Bibliography
Index
ELIZABETH SPENCER is a Lecturer in Eighteenth Century and Public History at the University of York. She is also Director of the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past. She holds a PhD in History from the University of York, and has published on women, clothing, and consumption in the long eighteenth century.

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Title Details

222 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

8 b/w illus, 5 graphs.

Series: Pasold Studies in Textile, Dress and Fashion History

Series Vol. Number: 2

Imprint: Boydell Press