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Getting dressed: A study of women's relationship to their clothing

Woodward, Sophie; (2005) Getting dressed: A study of women's relationship to their clothing. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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The empirical focus of this thesis is the act of getting dressed. It is based upon an ethnography of women's wardrobes, which took place over a period of 15 months in both London and Nottingham. My research demonstrates that this 'private' moment is the instance when women have to consider both personal tastes and social expectations, and occasions of wearing. As such, the act of dressing involves much wider concerns, such as, social propriety, sexuality, age, status, occupation and ethnicity. Furthermore, because this act takes place at least once a day, it is ubiquitous. However, despite being such an important moment, there is no explicit interrogation of it in contemporary Britain. This research draws upon current emphases on fashion and clothing as practice, yet also employs an anthropological and material culture approach. Despite the rapidly changing styles of clothing that characterize the Western fashion system, this thesis looks at the in-depth, long-term relationship women have with their clothing; how clothing, through its material propensities, encodes social relationships, biographies and identities. As a result of this grounded, ethnographic approach which encompasses both practices of wearing and the particular materiality of clothing, what emerges from this thesis is an understanding of how women construct them 'selves' through assemblages of clothing. The dominant Western ontology locates the self as 'deep' within the person, as innmaterial. However, here I look at the particular means through which the self may be externalized in clothing, and created through the act of dressing. Acts of dressing involve women's projections into future social situations, as they imagine the opinions of others; as such, women do not exist as 'individuals' but are constituted relationally through this daily act.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Getting dressed: A study of women's relationship to their clothing
Identifier: PQ ETD:602820
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446878
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