Consumerism And Consumption In 18th Century Britain

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Consumerism and Consumption in Eighteenth Century Britain Consumo ergo sum - I consume, therefore I am. This turn on the classic phrase I think, therefore I am has become increasingly popular, especially used for reflection on our society and by critics of capitalism. In order to understand our society better, it is important to descry the origins of the capitalistic ecosphere we live in. Traces of consumerism can be found throughout all ages of humanity, however a particularly great shift took place in the eighteenth century. This essay intends to prove that the new culture of consumerism influenced the British society in all aspects during this period. [Why Britain? add Neil Mc Kendrick/Brewer Talk] Already the preceding century saw the…show more content…
The fabrics were imported from India and manufactured in the north of England which contributed to the expanding British textile trade. (White, M) However, the new fabrics were quickly available for the lower ranks of society and allowed ordinary men and women to copy their superiors. This led to what Lemire describes as democratization of fashion in Fashion’s Favourite. The influence of the new consumerist culture was therefore reflected in the new desire for fashion to appeal aesthetically as opposed to the mere usefulness of clothing. Aristocratic fashions constantly evolved, changing direction from time to time, and steadily filtered down through society. (Friese) However, the middle class was not the only group imitating…show more content…
(Kremer) The distinctions between male and female dress began to reflect larger cultural shifts in the eighteenth century. Fashion was redefined as feminine and light-hearted, furthermore representing women as unsuitable for education or citizenship and lacking reason by nature. Solely men were considered gifted with rational thought which entitled them to be politically empowered. They expressed this in their clothing, replacing the heeled shoes with the promising three-piece suits, carefully avoiding standing out too much from each other. Expressed in literature: [Find Alexander Pope’s satirical men’s club rules. “Shall wear the Heels of his shoes exceeding one inch and half... the Criminal shall instantly be expell’d... Go from among us, and be tall if you can!”] The character Harriot in a story called “The Delineator” represented the typical feminine ideal of the eighteenth century and was described as “lively”, “tottering on her French heels and with her head as unsteady as her feet” (Potts 342), proving how the masculine connotation of the high heel shifted towards a portrait of a potent accessory of ‘ditsy desirability’. Despite these rather light-hearted associations, heeled shoes were furthermore connected to

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