A social and cultural history of the female neck and shoulders in England, c.1838-1953
Supervisor: Siân Pooley
My research examines the neck and shoulders as a key site of the construction and experience of femininity in England from 1838 to 1953, a period framed by the visual spectacles of the coronations of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.
Studying the female neck and shoulders in ideal and actuality - as a site imbued with particular cultural meanings and as a site of physical and sensory experiences - this project places the body at the centre of the analysis of gender and sexuality. This project considers the motivations and constraints informing women's experiences of their bodies and animating the choices they made. My research thus permits analysis of the desires, fantasies and politics of envy that colour women's relationships with their dressed bodies.
This project takes seriously the decisions women made about how to dress, or expose their bodies, offering a corrective to narratives of changing ideals of femininity in this period. Women consistently wore dresses and accessories which exposed the neck and shoulders, a continuity which has been overlooked despite the ubiquity and persistence of the ideal of a long pale neck and sloping shoulders.