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Fashionable Queens

Body – Power – Gender

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Edited By Eva Flicker and Monika Seidl

The essays collected in this book provide profound insights into the wide-ranging topic of the fashionable queen: the manifold implications and effects that the combination of body, power and gender can have are examined by using different approaches and a variety of theoretical frameworks. By addressing queenly appearances in the past and the present, in politics and the media, in royalty and the middle-classes, in the arts and in popular culture, this book offers a new way of thinking of publically significant women, who exert, and at the same time subvert, their power through their attires and thereby negotiate notions of gender, class, power and media representation.
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Queen Victoria and Political Self-Fashioning: Clothing Careers: Birgit Neumann

Dressing the Royal Body

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Queen Victoria and Political Self-Fashioning: Clothing Careers

Birgit Neumann

Abstract

The paper focuses on visual representations of Queen Victoria, analysing how fashion was used to bridge the gap between prevailing concepts of femininity and public rule. As political subjects increasingly turned into consumers of media, representations of Queen Victoria’s body became a site for acting out the fundamental relation between cultural community and political sovereignty. The act of staging political power was predicated on performative acts of self-fashioning, in which fashion became a key mechanism for creating a seemingly naturalized foundation of political sovereignty. The paper will trace the cultural tensions inherent in acts of self-fashioning by giving a brief overview of the different styles adopted by Queen Victoria and contextualizing these “clothing careers” (Huck 205) within cultural history.

Compared to today’s royal family, who are almost constantly exposed to the paparazzian curiosity, Queen Victoria led a secluded life (cf. Schneider 42). Maybe it was precisely Victoria’s relative distance from everyday public life that elicited the public’s curiosity and prompted the creation of ever new images of the monarch, images that made “the idea of ‘Victoria’ all the more available for the projection of various wishes, hopes, fears and sympathies” (ibid. 57). As a matter of fact, no monarch “had her image reproduced more often than Victoria” (Nadel 169). Firmly embedded in the context of a mediatised consumer culture, public images of Victoria in prints, photographs, paintings, engravings, postage stamps and domestic...

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