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.
About the Author
Marianne Thesander is an ethnologist and lives in Copenhagen.
Table of Contents
PART I: THE FEMALE PHYSICAL IDEAL
1. The Status Image
2. Morality, Perception of the Body and Aesthetics
3. Dress and Fashion
4. Propagation of the Fashion Ideal
PART II: PHYSICAL ALTERATION 1800s-1900s
5. The Corseted Woman 1880s-c. 1909
6. The New Slender Look c. 1910-29
7. The Soft-Contoured, Slender Body c. 1930-46
8. Clearly Defined Female Forms c. 1947-64
9. Physical Desexualization c. 1965-78
10. New Physical Awareness and Greater Self-Confidence c. 1978-1990s