The development of consumption culture and the individualisation of female identity: Fashion discourse in the Netherlands 1880-1920

C.A.J.C. Delhaye

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Abstract

This article investigates how the arena of fashion, as an example of consumption culture, has been an important locus of female individualization. Individualization is defined in a Foucauldian manner as the process by which human beings are channelled into individuals. From the mid-19th century onwards, the subject of 'individualization' has been a central theme in sociological, historical and anthropological thought. It is striking how, even now, leading commentators are addressing the issue in gender-blind terms. Feminist scholars have therefore criticized the mainstream debate about individualization, arguing that women have been excluded from the western development of individualization. This article will sustain the point of view that while women have been banned from 'masculine' processes of individualization, they have at the same time been involved in many 'other' - often trivialized - developments of individualization. Modern phenomena such as consumption culture and fashion are examined as important arenas of female individualization. The argument is supported by an analysis of Dutch fashion magazines at the turn of the 19th century (1880-1920). The analysis highlights how the editorials taught women to conceive of themselves as 'modern' individuals free to choose and be aware of themselves as unique and self-determining persons. Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-115
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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