Beautiful Girls Project

Advertisement from The World of Dress,
May 1900
In mid-2015, I began a two-year Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship on the project 'Beautiful Girls: Consumer Culture in British Literature and Magazines, 1850-1914'.

The Delineator, October 1913 
Beautiful Girls will examine how beauty ideals for girls were conceived in British novels, magazines, and beauty manuals in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. It will interrogate how conceptions of youthful female beauty in print culture were informed and transformed by the burgeoning consumer culture of the time.

This research will analyse how physical beauty appears in several print genres to produce the first comprehensive history of how beauty ideals for girls were disseminated, consumed, and resisted in the nineteenth century. It will contribute to our understanding of how modern ideas about female beauty were shaped. In a contemporary age in which girls and women are increasingly undergoing cosmetic surgery to remodel their bodies, eliminate “ethnic” facial features, reduce the markers of ageing, and lighten their skin, the question of how female beauty ideals came to be normalised through mass print culture is especially significant.

I recently decided to expand the project to consider American print culture as well given that so many magazines and cosmetic brands travelled across the Atlantic along with beauty ideals

With a Canadian colleague, I hope to organise a symposium on the history of beauty in 2016.

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