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Women’s Fashion Accessories: Gender, Modernity, and National Identity in Nineteenth-Century Iberian and Latin American Cultures

Women’s Fashion Accessories examines the textual and visual representation of accessories in Iberian and Latin American cultural contexts ranging from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Drawing from gender studies, social anthropology, and cultural theory, I demonstrate how items of dress produced a symbolic arena in which cultural meanings and values were transformed and reshaped at both national and transnational levels. During this period, accessories reveal entire networks of negotiations and strategies that often involved significant issues of gender, race, class, and national identity on both sides of the Atlantic. Fashion objects were also metaphorical items in which the meaning of “modernity” in a peripheral context was negotiated, as well as a mechanism to debate the political and cultural approaches that would “modernize” Spain and postcolonial Latin America.

Women’s Fashion Accessories focuses on three essential pillars: 1) nationalism and the birth of Spanish-American nation-states, 2) the dissemination of journalistic and literary culture, and 3) the emergence of a fashion industry linked to consumption and economic growth. Of principal importance, middle-class women became active participants in the economy and expressed themselves through the consumption of certain fashionable items. I analyze these phenomena in Spain and Latin America, as well as their complex entry into modernity, by tracing the transnational circulation of accessories. Drawing from an interdisciplinary theoretical approach that connects a variety of disciplines in the humanities, my dissertation expands on recent debates in fashion studies, particularly those concerning clothing’s role in the construction of modernity and reconfiguration of nineteenth-century gender and social roles.

In the first chapter, I discuss how accessories designed in Paris helped articulate the evolving idea of “modernity” and reinforced its artistic expression. The second chapter covers Spanish mantillas and Argentine peinetones, both of which were employed to identify and polarize the ideological gap between political groups. In subsequent chapters, I consider accessories of Asian origins–Spanish mantones de Manila and Mexican rebozos–in relation to issues of national identity, race, and social class. Finally, I analyze the role of corsets within the changing position of femininity and female participation in the public sphere.

Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 450, 37th and O St., N.W., Washington