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The Interpretation of Surface: Boundaries, Systems and Their Transgression in Clothing and Domestic Textiles, c.1880‐1939

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This article examines the surface qualities of textile objects in the 1880 to 1939 period, analyzing representations and descriptions of both highly finished and maintained textile surfaces, and degraded and ill-maintained garments. It is argued that the finishing techniques applied in manufacture were carefully replicated in domestic processes, and that qualities of surface and finish in textiles were important both materially and symbolically in the stratified social systems of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. Theoretical insights from Julia Kristeva and Mary Douglas are used to understand the meanings of textile objects in use and wear, in their relationship to the bodies that wore them, and in the processes of maintenance to which they were subjected.

Keywords: boundaries; finishing processes; social history; surface; textiles

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Textile brings together research in textile studies in an innovative and distinctive academic forum for all those who share a multifaceted view of textiles within an expanded field. Peer-reviewed and in full-color throughout, it represents a dynamic and wide-ranging set of critical practices. It provides a platform for points of departure between art and craft; gender and identity; cloth, body and architecture; labor and technology; techno-design and practice— all situated within the broader contexts of material and visual culture.

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