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The Corset: A Cultural History

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This title was named one of the Best of the Year by the "Toronto Globe & Mail", and it was also the winner of the 2002 Milia Davenport Publication Award sponsored by the Costume Society of America.

About the Author

Valerie Steele is chief curator and acting director, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Among her many publications are Fifty Years of Fashion (ISBN 0 300 08738 1, pb. [pound]15.00*), Fashion Italian Style (forthcoming, ISBN 0 300 10014 0, [pound]25.00*), and China Chic: East Meets West (with John S. Major) (ISBN 0 300 07930 3, [pound]35.00*), all published by Yale University Press. She is also editor of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture.


"This is cultural scholarship and social history at its absolute best." Literary Review "The Corset is at once couture eye candy and intellectually enlightening." WOMEN'S REVIEW OF BOOKS "Obligatory reading for fashion historians." Times Literary Supplement

What is it about corsets that so fascinates costume historians and fetishists alike? For more than 500 years, women and occasionally men rigidly laced themselves up in whalebone or steel in order to be molded into some sort of physical ideal. Consider the work of contemporary designers such as Gaultier and Lacroix, and it becomes apparent that this strange obsession continues to this day. While there is no shortage of information on this fashion curiosity, Steele here emphasizes the aesthetic, social, and historical aspects. As chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the author of nearly 12 books on costume history, she is well qualified to tackle the subject and to attempt to answer "why." The text is scholarly, yet lively and readable, and the numerous images drawn from a variety of sources such as trade cards, paintings, advertisements, book illustrations, and contemporary photos help illustrate her point. This book would be a good purchase even for libraries that already have material on this subject. Margarete Gross, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

For 400 years, women wore corsets that controlled their shape and constricted, and sometimes crushed, their ribs and organs. In the 18th century, "tight-lacing" was a common phenomenon, but in the 19th century, technology allowed for more effective corsetry. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the corset became less popular and gradually faded almost completely from use, though recently, it's come back into fashion as sexy outerwear. In The Corset: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele, chief curator and acting director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and editor of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, takes on an item of clothing that has achieved notoriety among many historians. But Steele challenges the popular view that corset-wearing women were merely the victims of fashion, and delves into the "complex gender politics surrounding the corset controversies of the past." The hundreds of color and b&w photos and illustrations provide entertaining visual evidence for Steele's scholarship. (Dec. 6) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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