Focusing on the work of female police officers in London, this article discusses the importance of dress as a crucial technology through which identities of police and policed were performed and constituted. Uniform and plain-clothes duties relied on different but related surveillance strategies. Uniform gave women confidence and security as they moved into new environments, becoming part of the urban spectacle and a highly visible form of ‘feminine’ authority. Yet they were also used for plain-clothes and undercover observations on suspected brothels, gambling joints and unlicensed drinking clubs. Female officers were taught to interpret the dress and physiognomy of others in relation to cultural codes regarding class and status as well as gender; they then used this knowledge to adapt their own appearance, subverting the symbolic order for official purpose.
- Women police
- undercover policing