‘Confounding our sons with our daughters’: Punch, Women’s Masculine Attire, and Gender Politics, c. 1848-1868
Hannah Bradshaw, MLitt Dress and Textiles, University of Glasgow, has recently been awarded the Yarwood Grant for 2023.
The current project assesses the ways in which Punch’s criticism of women’s masculine attire in the period 1849-1868, defined here as garments associated with contemporary British menswear such as coats, waistcoats, neckties, and hats, reveals anxieties over threats to heteronormative gender roles and ideology, male hegemony, and sartorial markers of gender difference. Employing a combined art and dress history methodology that leads with images and considers both the visual and textual representations of these garments in Punch, this study demonstrates that there was precedence for women’s tailored styles of the final decades of the nineteenth century associated with the New Woman. It argues that a close analysis of Punch cartoons lampooning women’s masculine attire challenges the common view of the 1890s as the period in which the rigid high Victorian gender ideology was irrevocably fractured, revealing instead that this instead that cracks and contradictions were always present even as this ideology was at its most emphatic in the period of enquiry. As a result, Punch is positioned as an invaluable source for dress and gender history, as it was both a producer and product of culture, creating and disseminating, and indeed critiquing challenges to gender discourse in mid-nineteenth-century Britain.
After her studies have been completed, we will be excited to share her report with you all here.
In the meantime, please read our reports from previous winners.
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