• ‘There is a great deal to the build and wearing of hats, a great deal more than at first meets the eye’: The significance of headwear in the novels of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell

      Lyon, Olivia (University of Chester, 2013)
      The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the significance of headwear to Victorian culture and society, primarily through an analysis of the ways in which headwear is presented in selected works by Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell. The dissertation will also examine articles, illustrations and periodicals from the time in order to gain an insight into the way headwear was viewed in the nineteenth century, in conjunction with information gathered from Brontë and Gaskell’s works. Further research into the subject area has suggested that this is an area of research which has been unusually overlooked, as there are many works which discuss the importance of nineteenth century clothing, but very few with any in-depth analysis of the importance of headwear. The investigation is split into two chapters. The first chapter analyses headwear and its significance to the representation of the individual, as well as the way in which the adornments and trimmings associated with headwear can reveal aspects of a character’s personality. There is also an analysis of the significance of headwear and its relation to the representation of masculinity and femininity, with reference to cross-dressing and Judith Butler’s ideas of gender construction. The second chapter examines headwear as a class signifier, primarily focusing on the headwear of the middle and working classes, including maids and servants. The socially ambiguous nature of the governess’s position is investigated, as well as highlighting the usage of headwear as a means of advancing one’s social class.