Saturday, February 28, 2009

femininity and dress.

Reading female masculinities in the 1920s can not be looked at without discussing Radclyffe Hall. Hall was a lesbian and famous for her relationships and writings. The Well of Loneliness was her best known novel that features the life of Stephen Gordon a masculine lesbian who resembles Hall in many ways. In regards to the article, Hall’s appearance was a constant source of comment throughout her whole life. Her “sexual cross dressing” evoked a lot of controversy as far as dress and the implied meanings of that dress.Is it possible to dress completely masculine, and keep short hair, short nails etc. without being labelled a lesbian? In the 1920s the article states, boyishness as fashion meant passing neither as a boy nor as a lesbian and that we have to be careful in reading “masculine” as lesbian. There was a constant need to label one another during that time. Women who smoked and drank ‘like men’ called each other bi-sexual or sexless names such as, Bobbie, Jackie, Jo. Hall was exciting and brave to women and the Modern Girl was tempted to experiment herself.Hall created a style in affect by making her lesbianism more visible. Sexual ambiguity was broken down and the link between clothing and sexual identity was firmly established. A point of interest to me is the visual similarity found in Hall and Coco Chanel. Below is Radclyffe Hall, an established lesbian. Beside her, Coco Chanel, a straight woman. Both these women are fashion icons, one for masculine style the other for masculine design, yet very hard to differentiate which one is the lesbian.Sources: Doan, Laura. “Passing Fashions: Reading Female Masculinities in the 1920s.” Feminist Studies. (1998): 663-700.Wilson, Elizabeth. “A Note on Glamour.” Fashion Theory. 11.1. (2007): 95-108.11.

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