Jess’ manuscript, “Beauty Brokers: artifice and enterprise in Victorian Britain,” is the first study to systematically chart socio-economic and cultural developments in the Victorian commercial grooming industry, specifically in relation to London’s urban retail geographies. The project reflects her interests in the histories of consumption and self-fashioning, business, gender, urban space, and imperial economic networks.
Jess is currently embarking upon her second project, “Imperial Beauty: the global trade in appearance, 1830-1930.” It relocates Beauty Bound’s metropolitan themes to the imperial setting, charting London manufacturers, British migrants, and indigenous residents’ participation in a global beauty culture. It investigates transnational commodity and cultural flows between London-based manufacturing perfumers and imperial markets in British India, the West Indies, and Australia, focusing on consumption patterns of specific colonial populations. It subsequently illuminates, via Adelaide’s female beauty entrepreneurs and barbers in Bombay, the quotidian realities of imperial commercial enterprise. At the same time, the project charts the global transmission of ideas about beauty and, specifically, a British beauty aesthetic that was natural, unblemished, and white. In this way, the project critically engages with representations of racialized beauty to explore the fictions of physical difference that came to characterize high imperialism of the late nineteenth century.