Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the 18th Century


Eighteenth-century women told their life stories through making. With its compelling stories of women's material experiences and practices, Material Lives offers a new perspective on eighteenth-century production and consumption. Genteel women's making has traditionally been seen as decorative, trivial and superficial. Yet their material archives, forged through fabric samples, watercolours, dressed prints and dolls' garments, reveal how women used the material culture of making to record and navigate their lives.

Material Lives positions women as 'makers' in a consumer society. Through fragments of fabric and paper, Dyer explores an innovative way of accessing the lives of otherwise obscured women. For researchers and students of material culture, dress history, consumption, gender and women's history, it offers a rich resource to illuminate the power of needles, paintbrushes and scissors.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. Chapter one is available via open access


material culture, eighteenth century, women's history, dress history, consumers, history of consumption, history of sewing, history of making


Dyer, S. (2021) Material lives: women makers and consumer culture in the 18th century. Bloomsbury Visual Arts, London.


Research Institute

Institute of History