Women, Sovereignty and Fashion


In the late Enlightnement, several patriots devised schemes to nationalize clothing by implementing a civilian national uniform.  If the nation is, as Benedict Anderson suggests, "imagined as both inherently limited and soveriegn," these plans reveal the social location of national "sovereignty" nation quite clearly. Monarchical proposals for civilian national uniforms in Germany and Sweden, assign sovereignty to the monarch, who would implement his uniform down the social hierarchy. Other patriots in Germany and France assigned sovereignty to a "national brotherhood," which as Carole Pateman might have predicted excludes women from sovereignty. The emergence of the modern fashion system, under which clothes change every season, undermined attempts to create a national uniform, so German and Hungarian patriots sought to reject fashion. By the 1840s, however, Germans and Hungarian patriots were seeking to nationalize not clothes, but the fashion system itself. Since, however, fashion was seen as a woman's affair, women were encouraged to play an active national role, albiet within limited sartorial confines.