The Feminine Ideal

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Reaktion Books, 1997 - Social Science - 228 pages
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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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The feminine ideal

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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 ... Read full review


The Status Image
Morality Perception of the Body and Aesthetics
Dress and Fashion
Propagation of the Fashion Ideal
The Corseted Woman 188osc 1909
The New Slender Look c 191029
The SoftContoured Slender Body c 193046
Clearly Defined Female Forms c 194764
Physical Desexualizationr 196578
New Physical Awareness and Greater SelfConfidence

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About the author (1997)

Marianne Thesander is an ethnologist and lives in Copenhagen.

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