‘Clothes are our weapons’
Dandyism, fashion and subcultural style in Angela Carter’s fiction of the 1960s
in The arts of Angela Carter
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Carter’s fiction is replete with references to clothes. Critical attention to this aspect of Carter’s writing has characteristically inhered around her fiction of the later 1970s onwards, and its explicit interest in the performativity of gender and feminine masquerade. This chapter refocuses that attention to the 1960s, the period in which Carter’s attitudes to dress were forged. It shows how Carter’s writing of the 1960s is informed by her interest in subcultural style, and the sartorial defiance enacted by the emergent counterculture. In the 1960s novels, Shadow Dance (1966), The Magic Toyshop, Several Perceptions (1968), Heroes and Villains (1969) and Love (1971), clothing operates as a mode of opposition to a dominant culture constructed as conservative, middle-class and patriarchal. In these texts Carter repeatedly depicts the male dandy as initiating a crisis in patriarchal culture, as he simultaneously rebels against the dominant order and experiences a decentring of subjectivity that is often catastrophic. The emphasis on dressing up in these novels instigates the dissolution of the ‘authentic’ subject prized in subcultural discourses and the inauguration of a more fluid, decentred model of subjectivity.

The arts of Angela Carter

A cabinet of curiosities

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