Clothes make the man

Fashioning the self in Victorian Gothic

in Fashioning Gothic bodies
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Victorian Gothic fiction traces the complex paths between madness, self-presentation, and consumerism, representing all three in terms of a Gothicised subjectivity fashioned from clothes. Self-presentation became an essential element of social advancement and tied into discourses of self-help. The notion of concealment is a vital element of selfhood in the Victorian period. It is the process of concealment that is of importance to Victorian self-fashioning and not what is actually being hidden. Clothing plays a more complex role than a mere 'disguise' for an implicitly 'true' identity or 'deeper' emotions. Attention to dress played a small but significant part in discussions of madness. Under the broader doctrine of moral management, it could provide a means both of identifying insanity and of treating it. The practice of a kind of moral management through clothing by female characters is a frequent feature in novels of the 1860s and 1870s.

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