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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection$
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Evelleen Richards

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436906

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437064.001.0001

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Flirting with Fashion

Flirting with Fashion

(p.221) Eight Flirting with Fashion
Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Evelleen Richards

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 8 examines the critical role of Victorian fashion in Darwin’s thinking. It looks at how Darwin’s exposure to the perceived vagaries and excesses of the dress choices of Victorian women (satirized in popular magazines such as Punch) and his consistent recourse to the metaphor of fashion enabled his transfer of the masculine, manipulative art of breeding to the sexual preferences of female animals. Darwin's transposition of women and birds is analysed in relation to the formulation of his fundamental threefold analogue of the selective practices of pigeon fanciers, of the frivolous dress choices of fashion-conscious women and the aesthetic choices of female birds, all of whom capriciously pushed their selections to non-functional extremes.

Keywords:   Victorian fashion, extremes, dress choices, metaphor, threefold analogue, selective practices, aesthetic choices, female birds, women, Punch

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