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62 Davidson, Caroline. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done: A History of Housework in the British Isles, 1650–1950. London: Chatto & Windus, 1982. Freeman, Sarah. Mutton and Oysters:The Victorians andTheir Food. London:Victor Gollanz, 1989. “Gas Companies and the Utilization of Gas for Cooking,” Journal of Gas Lighting 23 May 1882: 929. “Gas Exhibition.” Journal of Gas Lighting 2 Feb. 1892: 215. Goodall, Francis. Burning to Serve: Selling Gas in Competitive Markets.Ashbourne, Derbyshire: Landmark, 1999. Hardyment, Christina. From Mangle to Microwave:The Mechanization of Household Work. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. LMA/B/CPGC. Minutes of the Board of Directors (29 March 1889): 81. LMA/B/GLCC 40. Minutes of the Board of Directors (18 November 1895): 253. LMA/B/SMet. Minutes of the Board of Directors (11 June 1878): 447. LMA/B/SMet. Proprietors’Minute Book,Director’sYear End Reports. 1888–1905. Yarwood, Doreen. The British Kitchen: Housewifery Since RomanTimes. London: B.T. Batsford, 1981. • Gentleman’s Coat Ch r istopher Ken t • “Bedford, do you call this thing a coat?” Beau Brummell’s celebrated sneer tells something about what passed for wit among the dandies of Regency England. More importantly, it captures the vital importance of the thing itself—the coat—among gentlemen. No description survives of the Duke of Bedford’s unfortunate garment: we can only assume it failed to meet Brummell’s stringent sartorial standards, which demanded meticulous tailoring and scrupulous cleanliness in a style of dress that, contrary to the popular connotations of “dandy,” was both simple and masculine. It was this style that fell victim to the Great Masculine Renunciation, a sartorial calamity that caused men’s dress to turn black, bourgeois, and boring and coincided suspiciously with Queen Victoria’s advent to the throne and the publication of Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus.Popular conceptions ofVictorian men’s dress largely reflect this narrative, which received its fullest articulation, and its catchy label, in J. C. Flugel’s Psychology of Clothes (1930). Flugel, a Freudian psychoanalyst, didn’t just make up this version of history. Black does seem to have become a more popular colour for men’s dress. Its long-standing associations with power and seriousness as the colour of holy orders made it attractive to a bourgeoisie that sought these attributes. ButVictorian men’s dress wasn’t all black, though the limitations of theVictorian woodcut engraving, the source of so much of ourVictorian iconography, make it seem so.And it certainly wasn’t boring, if boring means sameness. No thing more than clothing cries out for interpretation, not just in realist novels, but in real life. As a historian I am, to adopt Elaine Freedgood’s 63 Victorian Things: Kent distinction borrowed from Benjamin, primarily a collector—professionally acculturated to taking “things” seriously and contextualizing them strongly. Victorian novels pay a lot of attention to coats, in the hands ofThackeray and Trollope, and of Surtees and Ouida, just to instance some of my favourite authors, because their readers knew coats mattered. For example, in John Caldigate Trollope describes two men who attempt to pass as gentlemen but fail because they appear “not quite at home in their clothes,” probably because these had been“bought ready-made” (255). Such clothes were inauthentic by definition, because not made specifically for their wearer.To adopt an appearance decided by others amounted to passing for what one was not.TheVictorian saw“It isn’t the coat that makes the gentleman” partly affirmed what it denied. No one had a greater vested interest in these matters than the Victorian bespoke tailor, whose relationship with his client was fraught with tensions. Because the coat was the outward and visible sign of social status, the man who made that coat had an authority that had to be ritually disavowed by a display of deference towards his client. It was plainly intolerable that a tailor, not a gentleman but a mere worker, could make gentlemen. Therefore this man, who knew the truth about the gentlemanly body and whose job was to conceal its shortcomings, had to be ritually humiliated—for instance, by being called“Snip,” by being made to wait for payment of his“little account,” and by seeing...


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