Feminine Ideal

Overview

Why, at a time when women's liberation was gaining force and momentum, did the corset become more cinched and restricting than at any time during the entire preceding century? Why was bra burning a political statement for the feminists of the 1970s? How far is the harnessed and restricted female form an outward symbol of Victorian and middle-class ideas of discipline and self-control? In what ways are women forced to conform to a "feminine ideal"?

In The Feminine Ideal, Marianne...

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Overview

Why, at a time when women's liberation was gaining force and momentum, did the corset become more cinched and restricting than at any time during the entire preceding century? Why was bra burning a political statement for the feminists of the 1970s? How far is the harnessed and restricted female form an outward symbol of Victorian and middle-class ideas of discipline and self-control? In what ways are women forced to conform to a "feminine ideal"?

In The Feminine Ideal, Marianne Thesander examines the significance of the female body, beauty and culture. She shows how the female body is constantly being changed, and by various – sometimes punishing – means made to fit in with current feminine physical ideals. The use of corsets, bras, make-up, cosmetics and body decoration either emphasizes or plays down specific aspects of the female form.

Marianne Thesander considers: sin and virtue; the forbidden, the concealed, the alluring body; woman as object, fetish and erotic sign. With extensive use of illustrative material, she examines the fashion history of underwear from the eighteenth century to the present day, exploring the significance of changing 'models' of the feminine.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This mixed academic and journalistic study of women's lingerie and the image of women from the mid-1880s through the early 1990s is divided into two parts. The first chapters discuss the female body as status symbol, the morality and perception of the body, dress and fashion, and the means of promoting the ideal. The second part enumerates style changes, from the corseted woman through the slender look, the contoured slender look, then more clearly defined forms, physical desexualization, and, finally, the accentuation of female sexuality. The commentary, overall a quick read, is somewhat scholarly and includes endnotes, but the illustrations lack caption history. This volume may be of interest to some readers for the brief coverage of body deformations in various cultures. For specialized collections on costume history and women's studies.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson Univ., Md.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781861890047
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Series: Picturing History Series
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne Thesander is an ethnologist and lives in Copenhagen.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Pt. I The Female Physical Ideal
1 The Status Image 19
2 Morality, Perception of the Body and Aesthetics 35
3 Dress and Fashion 55
4 Propagation of the Fashion Ideal 69
Pt. II Physical Alteration 1800s-1990s
5 The Corseted Woman 1880s-c. 1909 81
6 The New Slender Look c. 1910-29 107
7 The Soft-Contoured, Slender Body c. 1930-46 131
8 Clearly Defined Female Forms c. 1947-64 155
9 Physical Desexualization c. 1965-78 179
10 New Physical Awareness and Greater Self-Confidence c. 1978-1990s 201
References 221
Photographic Acknowledgements 225
Index 226
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