Portland State University. Department of Anthropology
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology
1 online resource (ix, 204 pages)
How an individual dresses is an outward expression of their identity, which impacts how they are perceived by others and their daily interactions. By modifying their dress an individual can better adapt to changing social situations. The Pacific Northwest fur trade brought people of varied backgrounds together at frontier forts like the Hudson's Bay Company owned Fort Vancouver, located in modern day Vancouver, Washington. In these areas of culture contact social relations were frequently changing, and by adapting their dress an individual could put on various "social skins" differentially influencing their daily interactions (Loren 2001). Through the perspective of practice theory this thesis gained greater insights into how the diverse Fort Vancouver populations used dress as an expression of identity and tool for social mobility according to 19th century British doxa.
Using Loren's (2001) examination of dress in the Lower Mississippi Valley as a model I examined dress at Fort Vancouver in four phases. The first phase consisted of reviewing primary documents from Fort Vancouver, including journal entries and reports, costume history, and other archaeological studies to develop of model of orthodox and heterodox dress based on 19th century British doxa. Then in the second and third phases of the study I compared artifact assemblages recovered from the Fort Vancouver Stockade and Village to the model developed in Phase One. The comparison was meant to determine if the Stockade and Village populations were dressing in a manner consistent with British orthodoxy or heterodoxy. For the final phase of the study I searched both assemblages for evidence of modified European trade items used as items of ornamentation, a hallmark of the fur trade.
The model I developed in Phase One determined that 19th century British orthodox dress was based on a rule of refined simplicity. Heterodox dress on the other hand included greater amounts of ostentatious ornamentation. Evidence from the Stockade assemblage suggested that the Hudson's Bay Company Officers were dressing in accordance with orthodoxy with minimal evidence for clothing decoration, and a high investment in personal hygiene. The Village population was determined to wear many of the same clothing items considered proper under British doxa, but with additional ornamentation considered heterodox. I also only found modified European trade items in the Village assemblage. Overall, I believe the primary take away from this study is that even on the frontier, Officers at Fort Vancouver were still upholding British orthodox standards through their dress. The more diverse Village population dressed in ways consistent with British standards but with additional embellishment that allowed for their own informal social rankings to be expressed.
© 2022 Dana Marie Sukau
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Sukau, Dana Marie, "Dress and Identity: Using Sartorial Artifacts to Explore Identity at Fort Vancouver" (2022). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6239.