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Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of…

Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette (2013)

by Denis Bruna

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Fashioning the Body is the catalogue to a fantastic exhibition on the history of fashion as body modification that ran in Paris in 2013 and then at the Bard Graduate Center of in New York City, where I saw it, in 2015. Beginning in the early modern era and continuing through today, the book covers how people have used fashion to modify and change their silhouettes, whether it is adding to the body through padding and frameworks (e.g. false calves, crinolines) or by modifying the body itself (e.g. corsets, shapewear). What is nice is that it focuses both on male and female fashion, instead of just being lazy and only covering women's wear, as if women were the only ones who did crazy things to look good.

The historical sections of the book are fantastic and full of all kinds of interesting information. The contemporary section is far weaker. Perhaps because of the focus on fashion as art, it does not seem to capture the motivations of those who wear wonderbras and spanx the way it did panniers. The pop culture references are also a bit odd: it discusses Mr. Pearl but not Dita Von Teese and talks about a rapper named Marky Mark without mentioning he's also had a rather successful acting career as Mark Wahlberg. There is also a rather perceptible feeling throughout the book that the authors have a dichotomy in their minds of freedom versus confinement, which I'm not sure is the best one to have when discussing this subject. But overall it's a wonderful work and I can highly recommend it. ( )
  inge87 | Oct 4, 2016 |
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This unique survey offers fascinating insights into the convoluted transformations employed by both men and women to accommodate the fickle dictates of fashion. With high design, wit, and style, Fashioning the Body tracks the evolution of these sartorial devices-from panniers, crinolines, and push-up bras to chains, zippers, and clasps-concealed beneath outer layers in order to project idealized figures. Women's corsets constricted waists; exaggerated buttocks and hips counterbalanced jutting bust lines; and chic, aerodynamic silhouettes compressed breasts and flattened bellies. Yet masculine fashion has been no stranger to these tortuous practices. Men flaunted their virility by artificially broadening their shoulders, applying padding to their chests, and slipping codpieces over their groins. With more than 200 beautiful illustrations-including reproductions of superb historic advertisements-Denis Bruna reveals the industry and art of these contrivances meant to entice and beguile as well as assert status and power. Contemporary haute-couture designers Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons, Christian Lacroix, and Vivienne Westwood are featured in this indiscreet tour of intimate fashion history.… (more)

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