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Fear and Clothing: Dress in English Detective Fiction Between the First and Second World Wars

Custance Baker, Jane. 2019. Fear and Clothing: Dress in English Detective Fiction Between the First and Second World Wars. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses the anxieties of an ostensibly male readership of detective fiction between the Great War and Word War Two, through analysing dress. Based on a close reading of 261 texts chosen both from established and popular writers of detective fiction and from writers established in other literary, political and academic fields, this thesis establishes how concerns about class, gender and race are revealed through dress. It tracks the different dress mechanisms employed at the time to counter fear of post-World War One social and cultural turmoil, and assesses how effective those mechanisms were. The findings show that the dress strategies of both men and women changed in response to the effect of the Great War on masculinity, the effect of war and suffrage on performing womanhood and the approach of World War Two. Detective fiction was a comforting consolation literature, and this research demonstrates that the dress references provided further comfort through subtly offering the readership a guide to the dress codes of, primarily, the upper middle classes. The texts themselves could act not just to reflect anxieties, but to allay those anxieties by providing a form of conduct book for a confused, readership, to guide them through the insecurities of dress codes. This thesis thus increases academic knowledge on the power, materiality and usefulness of dress in fiction.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00026472

Keywords:

dress, detective, fiction

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

History

Date:

31 May 2019

Item ID:

26472

Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2019 10:19

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2019 16:52

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/26472

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