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Oct 11, Joseph Stieb rated it liked it Shelves: us-history-non-military. The cumulative effect of her discussion of fashion is that the reader sees that eighteenth-century American life was far more contested and fluid than it might seem at first glance because fashion offered so many opportunities for commentary and criticism. The upper class idealized fashion as a marker of clear class distinctions in which they demonstrated their wealth and privilege with expensive and often imported dress.

However, middle and lower class people could emulate the upper class and blur class lines by adopting elite fashions. The elites at the time saw this adoption of elite fashion as both emulation and a threat to their power, but Haulman is careful to not simply reflect their opinions in her analysis. The upper class responded by developing complex codes of dress and behavior that sometimes enabled them to distinguish between the true elites and mere pretenders. They could also assert distinctions between masculine and effeminate men by labeling certain men as fops, who were overly effeminate in their dress and unduly obsessed with the pursuit of women.

Haulman shows that both men and women recognized the potential for fashion to undermine or preserve gender binaries, which led a constant spoken and unspoken conversation about what people wore and what their clothing said about gender. Although politics was mainly a masculine sphere in colonial America, Haulman demonstrates that the politics of fashion meant that what both men and women wore was politically relevant.

Gender and politics intersected during these movements as male republicans tried to refashion new political roles for women by regulating their dress and behavior. Activist men criticized women and foppish men for their obsession with fashion, which required the importation of fine goods from Great Britain.

Instead, they encouraged women to make homespun clothing and dress more plainly.

19th Century America

Haulman thus shows that fashion was at the center of male attempts to stabilize gender hierarchies and create a new American identity. She also argues that these efforts to create a republican were only partially successful. Haulman thereby enlarges the pool of people whom historians can see participating in conversations about class, gender, and politics. Usually, only privileged members of society could write or speak on these issues, but because everyone else had to wear something, groups like women, free blacks, and lower class whites also had a chance to comment and criticize.

Oct 22, Josh rated it really liked it.

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If you were a Quaker woman living during the early eighteenth century you might slip on your fine-spun garments before you began your day of labor, but you would avoid decorative prints, jewelry, or other ostentatious adornments. If you were a New Yorker preparing for a formal ball you would spend hours perfecting your high-roll and assembling the whale-bone hoop to display the skirt you had made from the finest and most colorful materials available.


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However, if you were a Patriot living several If you were a Quaker woman living during the early eighteenth century you might slip on your fine-spun garments before you began your day of labor, but you would avoid decorative prints, jewelry, or other ostentatious adornments. However, if you were a Patriot living several decades later during the Revolutionary War you might trade in your silk and wool for a homespun dress and your jewelry, high-roll, and hat for a small lapel pin or badge to signal your solidarity with the cause.

In all three cases what you decided to wear signaled something about your social class, political affiliation, religious beliefs, or gentility. In The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America, historian Kate Haulman traces how individuals mapped political, social, and gender ideas onto fashion and how fashion thus became a flash point for perennial anxieties about gender and gender relations among other things. Haulman argues that fashion was intertwined with ideas about gender and sexuality in the eighteenth century and it became the primary way to distinguish between sensible and the appetitive or foppish.

These distinctions between the sensible and the foppish had important implications for political divisions during the American Revolution as patriotic writers consistently linked treachery and loyalism to modes of high fashion. In turn, they ascribed patriotism to country and military modes, frugality, and bland homespun. Haulman shows that cultural pundits did not create fixed, top-down definitions of fashion.

A lucrative black market trade in fashionable garments grew with the general upshot of consumerism in port-cities. Self-emancipated slaves often stole garments to keep up with the latest trends and pass as free blacks. For example, calico transitioned from the use in fashion to use in functional work clothing by the s. Fine wools and silks eventually supplanted calico as the essential materials of stylish dress. From the French and Indian War onward, two competing discourses of fashion emerged. The second encouraged women and men to continue buying extravagant clothes, stressed the legitimacy of high fashion for distinguishing the social elite, and dovetailed with the economic needs of a market-driven economy.

William Axtell. In Charleston, South Carolina, however, Wollaston adopted a radically different type of depiction for female sitters: the masquerade portrait. These local communities of taste to which artists adapted the pictorial language of the metropole transcended the genre of painting to shape other material choices that consumers made in port cities.

John Wollaston painted Ann Gibbes Mrs. Edward Thomas in Courtesy Worcester Art Museum. Like colonists in other port cities, Charlestonians grappled with performing their urbanity on a transatlantic scene while shaping their material practices to support an emerging provincial culture.

Oratory and Platform Culture in Britain and North America, – - Oxford Handbooks

Charleston consumers deviated from both established British norms masquerade portraits in a place where there were no masquerades and the local aesthetics developed by other provincial American elites New Yorkers favored a more chaste female portrait type. Charlestonians were seen as overly British by some colonists and too provincial by some Britons.


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Nor did each colonist subscribe to an identical set of rules or material artifacts as tools for positioning themselves in society. Locales were sites where communities took shape through unification, but that process involved contest and competition between varying modalities. Though their regional differences might have been readily graspable by observers, provincial networks of goods were still fragile, shaped as much by troublingly proximal African American and native American material practices as they were by London examples.

Native American culture typified the state of nature that, to colonists, meant physical force determined survival, violence was endemic, and property was constantly under attack. Provincial elites trusted that by preparing a public self for communal interaction, they instituted a mutually beneficial society in which acts of violence diminished and savagery could be kept at bay. Yet lurking within the inner self was savagery, to be hidden or tamed.

A focus on material things highlights the racialized nature of provincial society. Politeness was not a strategy that could be fully adopted by anyone. Colonial and metropolitan authors and policymakers not only condemned African Americans and native Americans as barbaric and childlike peoples, denying them the right to become cultured through object use, but women, too, had a contested relationship with civility, illuminating the gendered fractures within these collectives.

On the other hand, these same sources encouraged Anglo-American colonists to rely upon women to help them establish social bonds in a new and uncertain context. Though not fully included in political society, women were vital participants in making a civil order. Objects matter in the pages that follow.

Their materiality; the formal qualities of color and texture and properties of paint, paper, and wood; the overall composition, massing, and organization of forms--each of these factors leaves traces through which the actions of past creators and users can be recovered. Objects are physical things, but they are also things to think with, things that, through their very material presence, simultaneously encapsulate multiple symbols and conjure varying resonances.

Oratory and Platform Culture in Britain and North America, 1740–1900

New technologies of humor and fiction formed alongside emerging ideas about the nature of the self in the eighteenth century. No longer able to conceive of selfhood as a series of fixed ranks and stations, as had been the case in previous eras, early Americans did not yet envision the self to be a reservoir of interior and invisible character, as moderns would. Instead, eighteenth-century residents of the British Atlantic world expected identity to be visible and flexible and assumed that even seemingly fixed characteristics, such as gender and race, might be manipulated or altered through changes in costume or climate.

In part, these beliefs stemmed from the tremendous popularity of Locke, who argued in An Essay concerning Human Understanding for a mutable self that was heavily influenced by exterior environment. Lock over and over to see wherein personal Identity consisted and if I was the very same self. The material world disrupted identity, but it also afforded stability through assemblage. Appearances can be deceiving. A politician reveals himself when he takes off his mask of gentility. The smooth-speaking politician is here revealed to be a sneering and selfish man.

He has pulled off his pleasant face represented as a mask to show his true nature, typified by the wizened, grotesque physiognomy thus revealed. Instead, the satirical engraving manipulates reality to show what is truly there but usually unseen. As colonists prepared themselves to engage in social relationships, they assembled a multiplicity of types of things, from pieces of costume to furniture to paintings.


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  • Instead, they deployed a network of artifacts to shape their social identities. To trace the actual collectives that people formed with things, then, requires uniting objects that people used and owned in the past rather than differentiating distinct types of artifacts by medium, genre, or connoisseurship. Placed alongside one another, engravings, portraits, gravestones, dressing furniture, and prostheses capture the heterogeneity of artifacts that comprised colonial assemblages and yet illuminate the commonality of purpose such goods shared in forming provincial society.

    Sponsored and purchased by subscribers in each port, these engravings offer a traceable sequence of the associations formed through their commissioning and display. Provincial subscribers unified around sanitized versions of their environs that were part of their larger program to subdue the North American landscape through scientific measurement and accurate representation. Carved with portraits of the deceased in the Boston area, the memorials were erected in South Carolina churchyards in the middle of the eighteenth century.

    By eternally linking a mimetic, but highly idealized, representation of the body to the corpse, portrait gravestones enabled elite Charlestonians to maintain the boundaries between themselves and the savage others with whom they lived, even as their bodies decayed. Just as important as the role these stones played in memorializing the dead were the bonds they forged with the community of the living who selected them. Together, the first three chapters examine distinctive aesthetic communities created through the formation of provincial society in colonial ports around midcentury.

    The second half of the book follows these assemblages through the decades of imperial crisis and revolution as political and cultural tensions between colonies and metropole came to a head, and through the period of uncertain nation-building that followed. These differences were echoed in the faults to which each sex was thought to be prone.