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Guest Blog – The Hoop Petticoat

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Writer and portrait artist Dani Trew has researched female fashion and economics in the 18th century extensively.  Here, in a 3 part series she explores the role of the hoop petticoat in the emancipation of women. Part 3 It is no wonder that Credit itself became feminized in the 18th century, given how much the hoop petticoat's popularity had effected the economy. ‘Lady Credit’ had her roots in the ancient goddess Fortuna, whose task, according to Aristotle was ‘of doling out earthly goods such as wealth, health and beauty.’ Her dominant ‘characteristics were capriciousness and fickleness’ and while ‘all were equal before Fortuna’ she ‘gave no special rewards for those who worked hard, or were of good moral standing.’ jhjh Silk dress ensemble, back view: 18th century. Courtesy of The Museum of London Female Fashion and economics were explicitly conflated in the rhetorical image of Lady Credit. While she may have been beautiful and signalled plenty, she also evaded the rational control men, and rendered them impotent. However, towards the close of the century, the hoop petticoat began to wane in popularity, retreating back to its previous territory in the royal court. The neo-classical Empire line dress took its place, which many have argued was a direct result of the hoop petticoat’s connection with the luxury of the Ancien Regime, and the desire for England to distance itself from French decadence. fghjk Silk dress ensemble, front view: 18th century. Courtesy of The Museum of London The interplay between fashion and discourse in the 18th century suggests that fashion became a highly sensitive non-verbal language that caught within it the seismic social changes. An understanding of the role that the hoop petticoat symbolically played in the texts of the 18th century unlocks several issues which grew with force over the proceeding centuries. For modern readers, it holds within it histories still felt intensely today. 195448 The Lady's Disaster - nil ortum tale - Hor. 1750. Courtesy of The Museum of London The clothes of women, and in particular the hoop petticoat, were the most sensitive and obvious manifestations of the irrational and uncontrollable capitalist economy. The discursive attack of the hoop petticoat is, therefore, an enactment of what cannot be achieved in reality: the rational control of a credit economy. www.danitrew.com


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  • Deborah on

    Fabulous blog -all 3 parts – fascinating reading – I have always loved ‘fashion’ and the history of i currently teach embroidery and other handcrafts, but had never realized the correlation of the hoop and womens power and control. so very interesting.

  • Sarah Campbell on

    Fascinating – thank you.


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