Consuming Angels: Advertising and Victorian Women by Lori Anne Loeb

By Lori Anne Loeb

Timid and retiring, the Victorian housewife used to be an "angel within the house," or so says the stereotype. but if this angel picked up a well-liked magazine--The woman, for instance--she observed in its ads photographs of Grecian goddesses, girls warriors, queens, actresses, adventurers. those arrestingly sexual and unusually robust pictures are the topic of eating Angels, an enormous exam of ways Victorian advertisements formed social values. Stylishly written and that includes seventy three reproductions, this publication indicates how advertisements used the hedonistic elements of Victorian tradition to promote their wares, glorified consumerism, and mythologized the middle-class existence. pictures of competitive girls, Loeb indicates, performed good to either women and men. And eventually, those advertisements helped bring in the 20 th century with the construction of a brand new group: the neighborhood of shoppers.

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The Victorian was to imagine sitting at a grand banquet, the table groaning with the good things of the earth and made beautiful by the more massive of these treasures; or descending a little in the scale . . imagine the homelier but not less enjoyable— perhaps rather more enjoyable—repast, whose table decoration of equally dainty design, if less ample in their proportions, throw light and colour and artistic effect upon the family circle. 49 "Mirrors made beautiful for reflecting the beautiful.

54 As a consumer ideology of choice and of pleasure proliferated, women were empowered. They gained a new form and degree of economic control and they became arbiters of new social values including gender. Advertisements trace the shifting contours of the feminine ideal. Classicizing imagery aggrandized the feminine image in advertisements. 55 The commercial goddess seems spare, her beauty somehow heightened because it is unadorned. Within the context of innumerable fashion advertisements that attest to the seemingly endless variety and artifice of Victorian fashion, her simplicity is more dramatic.

Advertisements throughout the late Victorian period stressed the importance of the womb-like protection of the home. Defensively, the family, as prescriptive literature suggests, turned inward, and its reluctance to confront the frequent ugliness of the outside world is even given physical manifestation. "30 Advertisements focused on the temptations of the outside world. A piano would make "home more attractive and save more expensive and dangerous amusements . . No investment . . "31 By 1910 "autopianos" could bring "a new attraction to the home .

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