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To Fashion a Self: Dressing in Seventeenth-Century England

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This article uses evidence from writing, correspondence, and bills to examine the role of dress in the seventeenth-century. Vincent concludes that clothing played a particular role in seventeenth-century culture. Functional analysis illuminates the utility and economic value of apparel; but a closer scrutiny reveals its importance in the care and presentation of self. To create a dressed identity successfully, the consumer needed a critical and sophisticated sartorial competence. This was used to make decisions that both maintained, and helped make their social, aesthetic and sexual selves. Early modern society encoded garments with meaning, but dress also returned meaning, and both things helped to shape its contextual society and the individual identities of the wearers.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/136270499779155096

Publication date: May 1, 1999

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
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