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The discovery of gold in 1851 attracted a flood of migrants to the Colony of Victoria. Aspirational migrants, who struck it rich on the goldfields or in providing services to the diggers, turned to material consumption to express their newfound wealth, with the consequence that clothing could complicate its wearer’s social status. Integrating primary sources and surviving material culture, this article explores genteel articulations of the spontaneous and extravagant purchases of luxury goods by the lower orders, and their response: an engagement with notions of tasteful dress and genteel economy. It examines how genteel women carefully selected their dress, essential when gowns were worn over many years and wearing secondhand clothing was common, and how clothing was maintained through material practices, including mending and refurbishing, to demonstrate the place of dress and related needlework activities in constructions of genteel identity.


School of Arts

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Journal Article

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