ISSN: 20404417
First published in 2010
2 issues per volume
Volume 3 Issue 1-2
Cover Date: December 2012
‘Now she’s all hat and ideas’: Fashioning the British Suffrage Movement
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Authors:  Amy L. Montz 
DOI: 10.1386/csfb.3.1-2.55_1

Edwardian,fashion,nationalism,suffrage,Suffragettes,Victorian,H. G. Wells

In H. G. Wells’ ([1909] 2005) novel Ann Veronica, Ann Veronica’s father and another man reminisce that while the burgeoning Suffragette used to be ‘all hair and legs’, it seems that ‘Now she’s all hat and ideas’. The men’s inability to distinguish between Ann Veronica’s hats and her ideas directly equates with England’s larger concerns over how a woman’s fashion, an outward marker, offers personal insight into her otherwise hidden political and national affiliations. The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) encouraged its Suffragettes to dress fashionably, respectably and well so that their political beliefs and violent techniques never called into question their inherent and true Englishness. The WSPU used women’s fashionable dress to offer an overtly political argument: women could be both fashionable Englishwomen and militant Suffragettes. Further, the WSPU urged working-class Suffragettes to protest in their regional dress – Scottish kilts, Welsh hats, or Lancashire shawls and clogs, for example – to present a visual connection between Women’s Suffrage and British nationalism. When Suffragettes paid particular attention to the outward markers of self and femininity, they did so to claim participation in nation and to maintain association with traditional femininity in order to legitimize their efforts to an audience potentially hostile to their cause. This article argues that Victorian and Edwardian women championing for the Vote chose fashions that adhered to traditional gender and national roles in order to prove that national allegiance and social transgression were synonymous, that the role of Suffragette was not marginal but rather central to the consensus, and that fictional and nonfictional Suffragettes could be both politically and fashionably capable.
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