Women, godliness and personal appearance in seventeenth-century England

Laurence, Anne (2006). Women, godliness and personal appearance in seventeenth-century England. Women's History Review, 15(1) pp. 69–81.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09612020500440929


Women in early modern England were expected in their personal appearance to conform to notions of gender, class and godliness. Women did credit to their husbands and families by presenting a comely appearance in which there was no possibility of confusion as to gender or class. This article explores how the literature of the period tried to manage the paradox of these expectations alongside concerns about vanity, excess and the mutability of fashion. It concludes that even godly women were subject to considerable pressures about dressing and presenting themselves to meet expectations of how they should look rather than the beauty of their souls.

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