Fashion & Social Performance in The Mill on the Floss Megan K. MizeAn Elegant And Precise Examination Of The Role Of Fashion Within A Polite Society, As Explored By G. Eliot
Etiquette Texts✤ Emerging middle class sought models of “appropriate” behavior✤ 1850s on: etiquette books claimed to codify rules of a polite society✤ Based upon the norms of the supplanted 18th century aristocratic society✤ “There were particular ways of doing everything in the [Dodson] family...” (Eliot 86).
The ladys guide to perfect gentility, in manners, dress, and conversation ... also a useful instructor in letter writing,toilet preparations, fancy needlework, millinery, dressmaking, care of wardrobe, the hair, teeth, hands, lips, complexion, etc. Emily Thornwell 1856 ✤ Chapter I: Agreeableness and Beauty of Person ✤ Chapter II: Gentility and Reﬁnement of Manners in all the Relations of Home and Society ✤ Chapter III: How to Combine Elegance, Style, and Economy ✤ Chapter IV: The Art of Conversing with Fluency and Propriety ✤ Chapter V: The Whole Art of Correct and Elegant Letter-Writing ✤ Chapter VI: Elegant Fancy Needle-work, Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Embroidery ✤ Chapter VII: The Art of Millinery and Dress-Making
The Etiquette of FashionWomen’s fashion constantly evolved, while adhering to strict rules of propriety
Clothing In Mill✤ 1820’s- 30’s✤ Context Determines Costume✤ Aunts Glegg and Pullet✤ Consciousness of Class and Taste as Represented through Appearance
Other Costuming Elements ✤ Fair Coloring: Skin and Hair ✤ Hair Styles: Curling ✤ Hair Pieces: “Fronts”
Social PerformanceText Explores Tensions Between Performance and Reality through Costuming
Nature vs Construct✤ Castiglione: Effortless Grace✤ 19th Century Evolution✤ “It is a pathetic sight...” (Eliot 98-99)
Fashion & Reflexivity ✤ Individual Appearance Reﬂects on Group Status ✤ Gender Roles ✤ Contemplation of Female Figure
Conformity & AgencyMaggie cuts her hair in response to social pressuresThis Moment Demonstrates The Ability To Act, While Highlighting The Extreme Difﬁculty Of Such Subversion
Further DiscussionAs such texts also existed for men, to what extent might a man control theconstruction of his identity via costuming? Were men equally constricted bycontemporary fashions? How does Mill address the relation between men,appearance, and social status?
BibliographyEliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Ed. Oliver Lovesey. Ontario, Broadview Press, 2007. Print.Thornwell, Emily. The ladys guide to perfect gentility, in manners, dress, and conversation ... also a useful instructor in letter writing, toilet preparations, fancy needlework, millinery, dressmaking, care of wardrobe, the hair, teeth, hands, lips, complexion, etc. New York, Derby & Jackson. 1856. Print.