Saturday, 27 June 2009

Fin De Siecle (End of the Century) - Dressing the Part (1)

By 1895, the "Bloomer Girl" was causing quite a sensation on city streets. She was a carefree woman, wearing a short gathered trouser, riding freely on the newly invented drop frame bicycle. Those few women who wore this costume seemed to be "desexing" themselves. Gender roles were rooted in the "cult of womanhood," a philosophy which held that women are of a weaker, more vulnerable nature and should correspondingly remain with domestic-oriented activities. The most fashionable women’s magazine of the time, Godey’s Lady’s Book, warned respectable women to resist participation in public duties since argument, debate, and serious thought were "injurious to their natures."

Yet the woman’s role in late-nineteenth-century America was more than just wife and mother. A man of the bourgeois elite conspicuously exhibited his wealth and power by how many servants he kept and by the manner of dress which adorned his wife. She was also an ornamentation. Elaborate costumes perpetuated an air of opulence while the actual demands of women’s wardrobes supported a life of privileged idleness.

Yet by the 1890s, institutions of higher learning were graduating educated women who went on to be political and social activists. Advancements, such as the bicycle and the typewriter, projected women into the public arena, while actresses like Sarah Bernhardt were asserting a new beauty ethic of the modern and independent woman. As America approached the turn of the century, these influences gradually began the decline of the patriarchal order and the ascent of assertive female sexuality and independence.

***Fonte de informacao.: PBS

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