New Book | Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture

Posted in books by Editor on May 30, 2021

From Bloomsbury:

Serena Dyer, Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the 18th Century (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1350126978 (hardcover), £80 / ISBN: 978-1350126961 (paperback), £27.

Eighteenth-century women told their life stories through making. With its compelling stories of women’s material experiences and practices, Material Lives offers a new perspective on eighteenth-century production and consumption. Genteel women’s making has traditionally been seen as decorative, trivial and superficial. Yet their material archives, forged through fabric samples, watercolours, dressed prints and dolls’ garments, reveal how women used the material culture of making to record and navigate their lives.

Material Lives positions women as ‘makers’ in a consumer society. Through fragments of fabric and paper, Dyer explores an innovative way of accessing the lives of otherwise obscured women. For researchers and students of material culture, dress history, consumption, gender and women’s history, it offers a rich resource to illuminate the power of needles, paintbrushes and scissors.

Serena Dyer is Lecturer in History of Design and Material Culture at De Montfort University. She has taught at the University of Warwick and the University of Hertfordshire, and was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She was previously Curator of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture. She has published on albums, wallpaper, consumer culture, and childhood in the eighteenth century.


List of Illustrations
List of Charts and Tables
List of Abbreviations

1  Introduction: Making Material Lives
• Material Life Writing
• The Consumer Culture of Making
• Four Material Lives

2  Material Accounting: A Sartorial Account Book
• Barbara Johnson (1738–1825)
• Educating Barbara Johnson
• Accounting for Herself
• Material Literacy
• A Chronicle of Fashion

3  Dress of the Year: Watercolours
• Ann Frankland Lewis (1757–1842)
• Sartorial Timekeeping and the Fashion Plate
• Accomplishment and Creative Practice
• Society and Fashionable Display
• Selfhood, Emotion, and the Mourning Watercolours

4  Adorned in Silk: Dressed Prints
• Sabine Winn (1734–1798)
• Paper Textiles, Dress and the Dressed Print
• Sabine Winn’s Dressed Prints
• Print and Making at Nostell

5  Fashions in Miniature: Dolls
• Laetitia Powell (1741–1801)
• The Powell Dolls
• Mimetic Dolls and Miniature Selves
• Dolls as Sartorial Social Narrators

6  Conclusion: Material Afterlives


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