Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Symbol of the Elite

The upper classes were obsessed with maintaining their status and individuality. This meant they must be different from the other classes and "better" in more than one way. They used to be able to easily claim that status by their opulent clothes so when one is walking down the street everyone knows your class. Another symbol was to have a tiny waist which was seen as a "natural sign of superior class status." But, with the increase in industrialization  it was becoming easier and easier for women of lower classes to access corsets that were made just as well. If you saw them side by side one could see a difference but since clothes were covering the corsets, it was possible for lower class women to achieve the same tiny waists.

Tattooing arose as a way for the wealthy to differentiate themselves from the other classes. One could instantly see the difference between a tattoo done by the famed Professor Riley and some other tattooist  Thus, if someone was to pose as a member of a higher class at a party and tattoo showing ensued which often did, the impostor would be found out.

The aristocracy was grasping for something they could claim as solely their own, and tattooing fit that bill. Everyone’s tattoo collection could be uniquely one’s own. Although all of one’s friends might have tattoos, they are all one-of-a-kind. One had the choice of choosing animals, flowers, crests, automobiles, or their husband’s initials. This gave aristocratic women a feeling of freedom and individuality that was becoming harder to achieve in the modern age.


  1. I absolutely loved your topic. It was so interesting and unique. I, myself, have two tattoos and would never have thought that I would be in the company of victorian aristocracy for it. My question to you is something a little off topic. What changed the trend from a preference to be a little on the heavier side to a 18" waist? It seems somewhat drastic when I'm looking at it. Congrats on having your paper finished so soon!

  2. Hey Tess, great post! I feel like this sense of individuality/uniqueness is what draws a lot of people to tattoos - I know it was something I always particularly admired before I started getting them done. However, with the growing prevalence of tattoos in our culture, I feel like this sense of uniqueness is being lost in some ways. I'm glad that tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable, but I feel like a lot of the originality is being lost as a result of 'flash tattoos' and generic artwork (like tribal bands).

    Do you feel like tattoos have lost some of their allure in this way? Obviously it's the responsibility of the person getting tattooed not to choose something meaningless/regretful, but I feel like the growing number of people who do get these generic tattoos could detract from the individuality that has always been a defining characteristic of the art form.

    It's a pretty broad question (and I know you're probably just glad to be done with the topic at this point), but it's something that I wonder about occasionally. I have several tattoos myself, and I know you do as well, so I was just curious to hear your opinion on its growing popularity / the changing perception of tattoos in our culture. Again great work with this topic!

  3. It's interesting to note that in today's world, tattoos are something that need to be hidden from view. They are not considered beautiful works of art by the higher up's of society, but a phase of adolescent rebellion and antisocial behavior. I wonder when and what exactly influenced tattoos to fall out of favor with the high class. Why is it now that I have to take out piercings and wear clothes to cover up tattoos? Why did it become so offensive and inappropriate to take one's body into their own hands.