Support and Seduction: The History of Corsets and Bras

Beatrice Fontanel, Author, Willard Wood, Translator
Beatrice Fontanel, Author, Willard Wood, Translator ABRAMS $39.95 (159p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4086-4
Hardcover - 160 pages - 978-0-8109-8208-6
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From the second millennium B.C., when Cretan women wore corsets that supported the breast and ""thrust them outward, spectacular and naked,"" to the 1990s and the advent of underwear worn as outerwear, women's undergarments have reflected the politics and attitudes of the times. French journalist and researcher Fontanel tells this history through anecdote, historical facts and 220 illustrations (60 in color) that pertain to the changes in corsets and bras over the centuries, from rigid metal stays to the more flexible whalebone to today's bras, many with little or no substance to them at all. Why did women for so many centuries subject themselves to the cruelty of the corset? Fontanel argues that the garment may have ""served as a sign of their superiority. Those wearing it were barred from even the slightest useful exertion, thus reinforcing the prestige of the ruling class."" The modern bra was devised by Mary Phelps Jacob (using the glamorous if somewhat unlikely name Caresse Crosby), who tried to market the brassiere herself but failed; she later sold her patent to the Warner Company. As the twenty-first century approaches, women now have John Paul Gaultier's cone-breasted bra made famous by Madonna, bustiers worn as outer garments and Wonderbras for those whom nature has neglected. A Japanese company even commemorated the bicentennial of Mozart's death with a musical bra. While not an exhaustive record, this light book offers an amusing and entertaining inside look at a source of women's support. (Dec.)
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