The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America

By Kate Haulman

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 28 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1901-9
    Published: August 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6929-1
    Published: August 2011

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2011 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians First Book Prize

In eighteenth-century America, fashion served as a site of contests over various forms of gendered power. Here, Kate Haulman explores how and why fashion--both as a concept and as the changing style of personal adornment--linked gender relations, social order, commerce, and political authority during a time when traditional hierarchies were in flux.

In the see-and-be-seen port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, fashion, a form of power and distinction, was conceptually feminized yet pursued by both men and women across class ranks. Haulman shows that elite men and women in these cities relied on fashion to present their status but also attempted to undercut its ability to do so for others. Disdain for others' fashionability was a means of safeguarding social position in cities where the modes of dress were particularly fluid and a way to maintain gender hierarchy in a world in which women's power as consumers was expanding. Concerns over gendered power expressed through fashion in dress, Haulman reveals, shaped the revolutionary-era struggles of the 1760s and 1770s, influenced national political debates, and helped to secure the exclusions of the new political order.

About the Author

Kate Haulman is associate professor of history at American University.
For more information about Kate Haulman, visit the Author Page.


“An exciting, deeply researched work that examines the intersection of American culture and the changing nature of politics surrounding the American Revolution . . . . It would greatly benefit graduate students and researchers of early American life, specifically those with interests in politics, culture, and society.”--Journal of American Culture

“Haulman successfully explains popular debates over the meaning of fashion without oversimplifying her analysis. Recommended. All academic levels/libraries.”--Choice

"The book, several years in the making, displays Haulman's easy command of her subject and source material. . . . Without losing sight of the big picture, she pays focused attention to a few well-chosen artifacts and texts."--Women’s Review of Books

“Haulman [has an] ability to capture the telling details that made the colonial social experience distinct.”--New England Quarterly

"Presents a subtle and detailed narrative of the changing ways that Anglo-Americans thought and argued about what to wear and what it meant."--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

“Offers a number of fascinating insights into the ordering of power and American social relations in the eighteenth century. . . . Beautifully detailed and arresting set pieces that sparkle through the pages of her book, like gems strung together on an intricate necklace.”--William and Mary Quarterly