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Essay/Term paper: Objections of the croquette and hoop skirt

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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While reading selections from The Tatler and The Spectator, two subjects that I found most interesting were that of the coquette and her place in society, and also that of fashion, in particular, the hoop skirt.

The Webster"s Dictionary defines a coquette as "a woman who flirts." One of the reasons why "she" appears so frequently in these essays is because these men sense a danger in them. The croquette is a figure of self-sufficiency and 18th century women were not supposed to be self-sufficient. Women of the 18th century were supposed to be "sugar and spice and everything nice" and, above all, dependent on men. When a croquette comes into the picture, however, the men are the ones who can"t handle themselves. The croquette is a flirtatious woman who knows very well the powers of her sex and uses them to her advantage. Just by looking and acting a certain way around men, she learns how to "control" them to a certain degree. Although the men realize what she is doing, they are powerless to stop it. It is also apparent to these men that women are able to be deceitful, and that the coquette may not be the beginning or the end of this deceitfulness. And they find this to be very dangerous to the ideas of knowing your respective places in their society.

Addison and Steele seem to think that the croquette is not only a lady who tends to flirt with every man she comes into contact with, but any young lady who outwardly makes every attempt to find a suitable marriage partner. In No. 110, of The Tatler (478-482), Addison speaks of a certain young woman being accused of catching the lust of several young men and breaking their hearts. He explains how she seems very innocent when proposed with the accusation and that this is how she obtains that she is not in the wrong. The way he words this essay makes me think that he believes that it is criminal for a woman to use the "Motion of her Eyes and Turn of her Countenance"(p 479) to capture the eyes of a possible suitor. Because a woman is able to use her "special powers" in such a way is deceitful and therefore may lead to other wrongful doings which, in turn, disturbs the way Addison believes the opposite sexes serve opposite sides of society.

The hoop skirt served the same deceitful purpose according to Addison and Steele. It was supposedly used not just as a way of accentuating ones beauty, but was reportedly used as a means of hiding ones condition, whether married or not. In No. 116, of The Tatler (482-485), Addison proposed other reasons why the hoop skirt should be done away with, but it is clear that the main reason is due to its fraudulent qualities.

These papers are interested in the ways in which women are able to deceive men, with the hoop skirt and the coquette being only a few, and the writers (among many other men, to be sure) are very nervous about the self-sufficiency that women are gaining. They discuss these things in the papers and amongst themselves as civil human beings, but in their minds they are thinking, "What will become of us if women don"t need us anymore? What will become of the social order?"


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