Utopian bodies and anti-fashion futures: the dress theories and practices of English interwar nudists

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Abstract

Nudism has been largely overlooked as a means for exploring utopian ideas about bodies and dress, yet the first decade of organised nudism in England demonstrates idealistic beliefs in the powers of disrobing. Those who reject clothes think deeply about dress, and nudist practitioners in the 1920s and 1930s produced distinctive and sometimes sophisticated theories of fashion and its discontents. At this time 'social nudism' was a new and minority pursuit that was garnering significant public interest, not least among intellectuals who promoted the practice as a solution to postwar cultural crisis. In the clamour for public respectability, however, visionaries were offset by moderates; disputes thus provide insight into the meanings and uses of dress and undress. As a forward-looking theory and a lived experience, English interwar nudism was simultaneously a product of its particular place and time and a fashioning of a future that has yet to arrive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-481
Number of pages31
JournalUtopian Studies
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Keywords

  • dress
  • interwar
  • utopia
  • England
  • nudism

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