Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Dr. Emily James, Dr. Elizabeth Wilkinson, Dr. Chris Santiago


Many scholars have interpreted Evelyn Waugh’s satires of social culture in the 1920s and ‘30s as entirely conservative works. But despite his alleged support for Victorian values, his writings suggest that he was sympathetic to women and, to some degree, feminist causes. This sympathy is evident in his depiction of the evening gown in his novels Decline and Fall (1928) and Vile Bodies (1930). Unlike other modern styles, the evening gown in the early twentieth century preserved and promoted dated notions of femininity common to the Victorian period. I examine Waugh’s novels alongside cultural artifacts of the same era, such as evening gown sketches and fashion articles. In pairing literary and cultural studies, I argue that Waugh, rather than advocating for these outdated styles, portrays modern women as victims of Victorian femininity. My research thus contributes to the field of modernist cultural studies by exploring Waugh’s complex attitudes towards women’s fashion—and, in so doing, reframing his legacy with regard to women and feminism.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.