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Title: A taste for excess: disdained and dissident forms of fashioning femininity
Author(s): Patrick, Adele
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis examines the meanings of forms of fashioned femininity in Britain in the post-war period. Drawing on a range of popular, academic and media texts, the widespread social, political and cultural disdain for the feminised decorative is defined and discussed. Modernist rhetoric and taste, the championing of design austerity, masculinity, bohemianism and appropriations of functional working-class fashioning are shown to be linked to the emergent tastes of Second-Wave feminism. In contrast, fashionings associated with working class and other disdained communities of women, defined here as 'feminine excess', whether in hair, make-up, jewellery or dress is shown to be demonised across historical and contemporary contexts by the arbiters of taste, expressed in key Modernist and feminist texts. Whereas both Modernism and facets of feminism are viewed as occluding and repudiating cultures and forms of working-class femininity, the emergence of queer theories and the rise of camp in popular culture is also critiqued here as ultimately confining discussions of and approbation for fashioned feminine excess to within the ironic discourse of drag. In the absence of research on, in particular working-class women's experiences and dis/pleasures in fashioning femininity, empirical data from female participants discussing their own histories of and tastes in fashioning is analysed alongside memory-work findings. Participants' contributions are discussed in two key chapters that focus on the significance of forms of identification in the self-fashioning of excess, specifically the iconic, excessive model of Dusty Springfield for women and girls growing up in Britain in the 1960s and, secondly, the complex array of meanings of hair and hair fashioning in constructing feminine and feminist selves. Throughout both the significance of class, notions of cultural difference, glamour and other pleasures in the processes of fashioning femininity. In a further chapter an array of media texts are analysed alongside insights generated by research participants focussing on the trope of jewels and jewellery. Desires for, pleasures in and identifications with female stars and Royals through their fashioning of glittering models of excess are charted across an array of popular texts consumed by communities of girls and women. Self-conscious, middle-class tastes for dissident fashioning and ironic appropriations of working-class excesses exemplified in punk or trailer trash vogues are compared to the non-ironic dissidence of Royal Taste, a form of feminine excess exemplified by stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Bassey who, it is argued, have usurped the Royal aura in the post war period symbolised in their excessive will to adorn. This thesis concludes with a reflection on the obduracy of discriminatory trashing of working class forms of fashioning femininity and the consequences of this in terms of cultural justice. The hegemony of Modernist taste in paradoxically subordinating and appropriating otherness is critiqued alongside feminist neglect of the productive processes and loci of fashioning. This thesis calls for a re-evaluation of the existing institutional, modernist and feminist demonising of the other, excessive woman, highlights the constructedness of all fashioning and details the cultural value of disdained women's fashioning regimes and tastes.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Department of Film and Media Studies

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