Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jan Ryan

Second Advisor

Professor Geoffrey Bolton

Third Advisor

Dr Judith Rochecous


This dissertation represents a new' departure in the study of dress in colonial Western Australia, focusing on the rationale behind individual and collective clothing practices in the new society. As a study of significant social and cultural practices, rather than an account of fashion, this research contributes to the understanding of previously disregarded elements in colonial Western Australian ethno-economic and social histories. The study investigates the internal and external influences which impacted upon colonial inhabitants' ways of dressing, their societal attitudes and social demeanour. The research compares the influences on attire and finery in colonial Western Australian society with the British/European context. This thesis examines the influences caused by world-wide dominant events, ideas and social groups, and their effect on societal and cultural attitudes in the colony. The thesis examines clothing as a symbolic indicator of status which influenced the class distinction in colonial Western Australian society. Also the function of dress as it relates to class consciousness and identification. The research focuses on the ambiguities associated with colonial clothing and the way in which social class and status were negotiated through wearing apparel in the colony. This thesis examines colonial Western Australian fashion and attire in the context of social stratification, social conditions, power relations and cultural formation, in order to comprehend sartorial consumerism and social practise in the colony. Fashion's ultimate function of signifying power and prestige, which linked with financial capability, and its impact on society and societal practise, is significant. The research examines the affiliation between colonial clothing and the economic growth of Western Australia in the context of the development of the colonial clothing economy and the influence of affluent colonists and traders who controlled the clothing behaviour in the colony. One of the primary purposes of this study is to examine the meanings encoded in colonial dress and adornment. The function of clothing and its adornment was often used for more than its utilitarian purpose. For example, the analysis of gender in clothing reflects the sociological differences and the power relations between sexes. In that context, the dissertation discusses colonial attire as an aesthetic experience, as well as a social and cultural expression of the period by examining Veblen’s Leisure Theory and Simmel’s Trickle-down Theory. Colonial characteristics such as different societal and climatic conditions as well as the way of life brought about a society dissimilar to that in Britain but symbolic to its colonialism. This research investigates the unique social and cultural qualities which applied in the colony and which resulted in a tendency towards distinctive dress codes in early Western Australia. This study explores the consumption governance, potency and patronage of attire in colonial Western Australia within the context of social, socio-economic and fashion philosophies.

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