The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing

The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing

The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing

The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing

Synopsis

Originally serialized in 1915 in The Forerunner, and never before published in book form, The Dress of Women presents Gilman's feminist sociological analysis of clothing in modern society. Gilman explores the social and functional basis for clothing, excavates the symbolic role of women's clothing in patriarchal societies, and, among other things, explicates the aesthetic and economic principles of socially responsible clothing design. The introduction, by Hill and Deegan, situates The Dress of Women within Gilman's intellectual work as a sociologist, and relates her sociological ideas to the themes she developed in some of her other works.

Although written in 1915, Gilman's treatment of clothing and dress remains relevant. This pioneering effort adds substantially to Gilman's reputation as a sociological theorist and feminist. In addition, it represents one of the earliest full-length specifically sociological analyses of clothing and the fashion industry. Ultimately, the author concludes that harmful and degrading aspects of women's dress are amenable to reform if men and women will work together rationally to change the controlling institutional patterns of the society in which they live. This groundbreaking work will appeal to those interested in Gilman, feminist theory, sociological theory, social psychology, women's literature, and women's studies.

Excerpt

In The Dress of Women,Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents a nonfiction analysis of the symbolism and sociology of clothing. Originally published in Gilman's monthly journal, The Forerunner,in 1915, The Dress of Womenwas serialized, month by month, at the same time as Gilman's well-known novel, Herland,and a year prior to Gilman's companion work, With Her In Ourland: Sequel to Herland. The Dress of Women,published here for the first time in book form, is a lively, nonfiction guidebook to many of the gender issues presented in Gilman's Herland/Ourland saga and provides Gilman's intellectual, philosophical, and sociological insight into the ethical situations and plot developments that are simultaneously explored in her two didactic novels.

Beyond its interest to fans and scholars of the Herland/Ourland saga, however, The Dress of Womenis, in its own right, a major analytical treatise by one of America's foremost sociological theorists: Charlotte Perkins Gilman. We have, as sociologists, added the subtitle, A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing, to emphasize Gilman's specifically sociological project in this work. Gilman critically and comprehensively analyzes the institutional generation and ideological support of gendered practices in the modern world, focussing on fashion and dress as paradigm examples. She mar-

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