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The Conspicuous Body: Science and Fashion in Early Modern England

Harrison, Sadie; (2021) The Conspicuous Body: Science and Fashion in Early Modern England. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between science and fashion in the early modern period. It brings together the disciplines of fashion history and the history of science to understand the complicated role that proper appearances played in the signalling of credit in seventeenth and eighteenth-century England and France. In the Renaissance, clothing was an ornament used to display virtue and signal learning, often through textiles and accessories showing natural objects from flowers to sea-monsters. In the seventeenth century, this culture of fashion was challenged when members of the Royal Society were complicit in the introduction of the threepiece suit and a new notion that men should dress in a sober style. The Society was complicit in positioning ornament and fashion in opposition to this sobriety associated with proper masculinity and proper knowledge-making, The thesis argues that this opposition between ‘fashion’ and science became a commonplace in the eighteenth century. Various authors attacked those who engaged in fashionable dress as improper or unreliable thinkers. Many accusations were levelled against women. However, women resisted these changes and asserted their status as knowers of nature. They used textile design to express their natural knowledge. For example, Anna Maria Garthwaite’s silks were part of a feminine language of showing: one that rejected the opposition of science and fashion advocated by men. Women also manipulated their dress to cultivate credit in philosophical networks, for example in the Bluestocking circle in England and the French salons. Even if female dress was demoted from the same level of credibility as male costume in the eighteenth century, women still worked to use it as a means to secure credit and express their knowledge of nature.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Conspicuous Body: Science and Fashion in Early Modern England
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Some third party copyright material has been removed from this e-thesis.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10129850
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