Advertisement

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

  • Loretta ClaytonEmail author
Chapter
  • 13 Downloads

Abstract

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.”

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, Anne. “Life into Art and Art into Life: Visualizing the Aesthetic Woman or ‘High Art Maiden’ of the Victorian ‘Renaissance.’” Women’s History Review, vol. 10, no. 3, 2001, pp. 441–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ———. “On the Golden Stairs: The Spectacle of the Victorian Woman in White.” The Places and Spaces of Fashion: 1800–2007. Ed. John Potvin. New York and London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 52–68.Google Scholar
  3. Andres, Sophia. The Pre-Raphaelite Art of the Victorian Novel: Narrative Challenges to Visual Gendered Boundaries. Columbus: The Ohio State Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  4. Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  5. Beetham, Margaret. A Magazine of Her Own?: Domesticity and Desire in the Woman’s Magazine, 1800–1914. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.Google Scholar
  6. Brake, Laurel. Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender & Literature in the Nineteenth Century. New York: New York University Press, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breward, Christopher. Fashion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  8. Carroll, Lewis. Sylvie and Bruno. Introduction by Martin Gardner. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988.Google Scholar
  9. Clarke, William M. The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1988, Reprint 1991.Google Scholar
  10. Collins, Wilkie. “Give Us Room!” Household Words, vol. XVII, February 13, 1858, pp. 193–196.Google Scholar
  11. ———. My Miscellanies, Volume 1. London: Sampson Low, 1863.Google Scholar
  12. ———. The Woman in White. Ed. John Sutherland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  13. Crane, Diana. “Clothing Behavior as Non-Verbal Resistance: Marginal Women and Alternative Dress in the Nineteenth Century.” Fashion Theory, vol. 3, no. 2, September, 1999, pp. 241–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferrari, Roberto C. “Fanny Eaton: The ‘Other’ pre-Raphaelite Model.” Pre-Raphaelite Studies Review, vol. 22, no. 2, 2014, pp. 3–19.Google Scholar
  15. Haas, Rachael E. “Constructing Identities: Analyzing Dress, Appearance, and Mental Illness in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White,” MA Thesis, Oregon State University, 2014.Google Scholar
  16. Kortsch, Christine Bayles. Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women’s Fiction: Literacy, Textiles, and Activism, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2009.Google Scholar
  17. Kunzle, David. Fashion and Fetishism: A Social History of the Corset, Tight-lacing, and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture in the West. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1982.Google Scholar
  18. ———. “Dress Reform as Antifeminism: A Response to Helene E. Roberts’s ‘The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothes in the Making of the Victorian Woman,’” Signs, Vol. 2, No. 3 Spring, 1977, pp. 570–579.Google Scholar
  19. Joslin, Katherine and Daneen Wardrop, Eds. Introduction to Crossings in Text and Tile. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2015, pp. ix–xix.Google Scholar
  20. Leavy, Barbara Fass. “Wilkie Collins’ Cinderella: The History of Psychology of The Woman in White.” Dickens Studies Annual, vol. 10, 1982, pp. 91–141.Google Scholar
  21. Linton, Eliza Lynn. “The Girl of the Period.” Saturday Review, March 14, 1868, pp. 339–340.Google Scholar
  22. Lord, W. B. The Corset and the Crinoline, London: Ward, Locke, and Tyler, 1868.Google Scholar
  23. Mitchell, Rebecca N. “15 August 1862: The Rise and Fall of the Cage Crinoline.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. Accessed July 4, 2018.Google Scholar
  24. ———. Fashioning the Victorians: A Critical Sourcebook. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018.Google Scholar
  25. de Montfort, Patricia. “White Muslin: Joanna Hiffernan and the 1860s.” Whistler, Women, & Fashion. Eds. Margaret F. MacDonald, Susan Grace Galassi & Aileen Riberio, with Patricia de Montfort, New York: The Frick Collection and Yale University Press, 2003, pp. 77–91.Google Scholar
  26. Moruzi, Kristine. “Fast and Fashionable: The Girls in The Girl of the Period Miscellany.” Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies, vol.14, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9–28.Google Scholar
  27. Peters, Catherine. The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  28. Polhemus, Ted. Fashion & Anti-fashion: Exploring Adornment and Dress from an Anthropological Perspective. Open Source 2011 Reprint of Fashion & Anti-fashion: An Anthropology of Clothing and Adornment, Ted Polhemus and Lynn Procter. London: Thames & Hudson, 1978.Google Scholar
  29. Rappaport, Erika Diane, Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  30. Roberts, Helene E. “The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothes in the Making of the Victorian Woman,” Signs, vol. 2, no. 3, Spring 1977, pp. 554–569.Google Scholar
  31. ———. “Reply to David Kunzle’s ‘Dress Reform as Antifeminism: A Response to Helene E. Roberts’s “The Exquisite Slave,”’” Signs, Vol. 3 No. 2, Winter 1997, pp. 518–9.Google Scholar
  32. Rose, Clare, Ed. Clothing, Society, and Culture in Nineteenth-Century England, Volume 2: Abuses and Reforms. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011.Google Scholar
  33. Rosenman, Ellen Bayuk. “Fear of Fashion; Or, How the Coquette Got Her Bad Name.” Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion. Eds. Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011, pp. 89–102.Google Scholar
  34. Rossetti, Christina. Poems and Prose. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  35. Simmel, Georg. Simmel on Culture. Eds. David Frisby and Mike Featherstone. London: Sage Publications, 1997.Google Scholar
  36. Sloan, Casey. “Possessing Dresses: Fashion and Female Community in The Woman in White.” Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol. 44, Issue 4, December 2016, pp. 801–816.Google Scholar
  37. Steele, Valerie. Fashion and Eroticism: Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  38. ———. Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  39. ———. The Corset: A Cultural History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  40. Surridge, Lisa. Bleak Houses: Marital Violence In Victorian Fiction. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Spooner, Catherine. Fashioning Gothic Bodies. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  42. Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence. Moulding the Female Body in Victorian Fairy Tales and Sensation Novels. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.Google Scholar
  43. Tennant, Kara. “The Discerning Eye: Viewing the Mid-Victorian ‘Modern’ Woman.” Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion. Eds. Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011, pp. 103–123.Google Scholar
  44. Wahl, Kimberly. “A Domesticated Exoticism: Fashioning Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Tea Gowns.” Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion. Eds. Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011, pp. 45–70.Google Scholar
  45. ———. Dressed as in a Painting: Woman and British Aestheticism in the Age of Reform. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  46. Waugh, Norah. Corsets and Crinolines. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1854, Reprint, New York: Routledge/Theatre Arts Books, 2004.Google Scholar
  47. Weathers, Rachel. “The Pre-Raphaelite Movement and Nineteenth-Century Ladies’ Dress: A Study in Victorian Views of the Female Body.” Collecting the Pre-Raphaelites: The Anglo-American Enchantment. Ed. Margaretta Frederick Watson. Aldershot; Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1997, pp. 95–105.Google Scholar
  48. Whistler, James McNeill. Letter to William Hepworth Dixon, July 1, 1862. The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. Web. Accessed July 2, 2018.Google Scholar
  49. Wilde, Oscar. “Literary and Other Notes.” The Woman’s World, vol. 1, Nov. 1887, pp 36–40.Google Scholar
  50. Wilson, Elizabeth. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  51. Yan, Shu-Chuan. “(Ad)dressing Women: Fashion and Body Image in Punch, 1850s–1860s.” Women’s Studies, vol. 43, no. 6, 2014, pp. 750–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middle Georgia State UniversityMaconUSA

Personalised recommendations