What cultural and political impacts did the dress reform movements of the Nineteenth Century have on society at the time?
(2017) What cultural and political impacts did the dress reform movements of the Nineteenth Century have on society at the time?, no. 48.
The dress reform movements of the latter half of the nineteenth century were a group of unconnected yet intertwined movements and individuals who sought to improve the design and function of women's clothing, with the end goal of improving the health, wellbeing, and comfort of women through the use of fashion, as well as changing the style of the garments to better suit the tastes of the wearer. These new garments were often critically received by the general public, and the wearing of a reform outfit could be perceived as the wearer making a strong political statement, even if that may not have been their intention. Dress reform can be split into three distinct sub-categories - Rational, Artistic, and Healthful - and I will study each of these in depth, based on both literature from the time and modern day commentaries on the subject. I propose the thesis that the dress reform movements of the nineteenth century did have a subtle impact on both mainstream fashion and the societal views of how women should dress, and through this study I will analyse the choices of the reformers and the cultural and political implications these choices had on society at large. In the past, research has been conducted on the history of the reformers, and how they were perceived by the public, but little has been written on the subject of how they influenced society around them. The artistic dress reformers had the most commercial success, and their links with popular artistic movements gained them the most visibility. However the healthful and rational reformers perhaps had a larger hand in shaping the perspectives of those around them, resulting in a small yet positive change in attitude.