No Room for the “Woman of Fashion”: Male Authorship, Anti-fashion, and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White

  • Loretta ClaytonEmail author


This chapter examines Wilkie Collins’ novel The Woman in White (1859–1860) and his anti-crinoline treatise “Give Us Room!” (1858) to show Collins’ construction of a masculine authorial identity in relation to contemporary debates about women’s dress and modern femininity. In the contexts of mid-Victorian fashion discourse and a theoretical understanding of “anti-fashion,” Collins’ aesthetic debt to an unconventional pre-Raphaelite sensibility applied to dress and style becomes clear. Highlighting the novel’s understudied motifs of fashion, dress, and self-presentation, however, reveals Collins’ distinct conservative aesthetic agenda, one that overrides the oft-noted theme of sisterly solidarity among its female characters, who are bifurcated into camps: the desirables who reject fashion and the reviled who embrace it, embodying a commonly maligned Victorian type, the coquette or “woman of fashion.”

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middle Georgia State UniversityMaconUSA

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