Performing spectacular girlhood: mass-produced dressing-up costumes and the commodification of imagination
Pollen, Annebella (2011) Performing spectacular girlhood: mass-produced dressing-up costumes and the commodification of imagination Textile History, 42 (2). pp. 162-180. ISSN 0040-4969
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This research, using an extensive sample of mass-produced dressing-up costumes aimed at pre-school and infant school girls, examines the breadth (and narrowness) of imaginative roles available on the high street. Utilising object-based methods of analysis alongside theories of performativity, childhood, consumption and gender acquisition, this article explores how gender is produced on the body through the performance of clothing. Despite the designation of imagination and play as 'natural' states of a 'natural' child, the penetration of the commercial dressing-up costume market into these realms promotes a legitimation of stereotypical gender and creates restrictions on the possible imaginative identities available for girls. Tackling issues of 'knowingness' and agency, this article argues that the extent to which young children can imaginatively and playfully engage with material culture is necessarily limited by the reinforcement of cultural scripts and brand narratives literally woven into the fabric of the clothes that they are given.
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