Fashion through time lecture provokes thought

Lecture explores women's fashion in the 18th century

23rd November 2015

The British Society for 18th Century Studies hosted a lecture at Newcastle University which explored women's fashion during this particular time period. The event, which took place on 20th November 2015, was named ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ which is a part of INSIGHTS Public lectures. Amanda Vickery, a Professor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London, delivered the lecture. Speaking exclusively to The Courier, Vickery said:

“I think mutton dressed as lamb is still something that women are scared about and it is still something which the media criticises women for.

If you look at Daily Mail, they do single out women who they think are dressing inappropriately for their age. So, I think it’s a misogyny that is still with us. Sometimes younger women criticise older women, but partly it’s out of fear of what is going to happen to themselves.”

Award-winning author of two books: Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England and The Gentleman’s Daughter, Vickery was also awarded a lifetime membership at The British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS).

According to Vickory, “Firstly, you should push to be valued for you achievements and not just your appearance. Secondly, you should support women in permanent positions wherever you find them because they are blazing the trails you will be able to follow.”

During the 18th century, there were a strict set of rules that women, particularly those who are middle aged, had to abide by.

A fashionable dress sense was perceived to be an ‘equipment of seduction’. In modern day society, women have more freedom choosing what attire to wear in comparison, however the phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ still seems relevant. Many older women are afraid of wearing certain items of clothing which may seem to appear ‘too young for them.’

Hedley Sugar Wells, an Art and Architecture teacher at INTO Newcaslte University, agrees with the relevance of mutton dressed as lamb.

“Following what Amanda was talking about I am probably coming to the older age (not old, but past my prime), a bit over 27”, Hadley commented. “I think that a lot of the things are still true. The role and status of women in the 18th century depended on how they looked or how they appeared.

Even though I think that has changed a little bit now, women are valued for more than just how they look like, but you still can see in politics that what she wears is as important as what she says. So, I think a lot of it still holds true.”

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