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Intimate apparel, a term in use by 1921, has played a crucial role in the development of the "naughty but nice" feminine ideal that emerged in the twentieth century. Jill Fields's engaging, imaginative, and sophisticated history of twentieth-century lingerie tours the world of women's intimate apparel and arrives at nothing less than a sweeping view of twentieth-century women's history via the undergarments they wore. Illustrated throughout and drawing on a wealth of evidence from fashion magazines, trade periodicals, costume artifacts, Hollywood films, and the records of organized labor, An Intimate Affair is a provocative examination of the ways cultural meanings are orchestrated by the "fashion-industrial complex," and the ways in which individuals and groups embrace, reject, or derive meaning from these everyday, yet highly significant, intimate articles of clothing.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Sexual Foundations
2. Corsets and Girdles
4. The Meaning of Black Lingerie
5. The Invisible Woman: Intimate Apparel Advertising
6. The Production of Glamour: Intimate Apparel Workers and Union Culture
7. Return of the Repressed (Waist), 1947–1952
Epilogue: Bra vs. Bra: Feminist Intimate Apparel Art
Jill Fields is Professor of History at California State University, Fresno.
"Erudite, exhaustive, and engaging, Fields' wonderfully original study deftly navigates several current literatures: women's and gender history, the history of sexuality, cultural studies, and the burgeoning scholarship on consumer culture. Using fashion to gauge changing conceptualizations of femininity and the female body, Fields traces discursive production and the policing of boundaries without ever neglecting the material contexts of social and economic relations."—Regina Morantz-Sanchez, author of Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn
"Theoretically sophisticated, methodologically innovative and just provocative, An Intimate Affair joins together the histories of production, consumption, representation, and fashion to claim the body as an arena upon which questions of pleasure and danger, power and authority, gender identities, racial purity and class access, became contested during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. After reading Fields, putting on or taking off lingerie will never again feel the same."—Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Women's Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
"This is a delightful book on a surprisingly important—and one can legitimately say—revealing topic. The archival work is impressive, the analysis solid; we gain greater knowledge of women in consumer society and of ongoing controversies about sexuality from the results."—Peter N. Stearns, Provost, George Mason University
"An Intimate Affair is a major contribution to the histories of fashion and of women. Wide-ranging in scope, this book demonstrates conclusively the importance of clothing in historical analysis and pushes the boundaries of cultural studies theory about the body to encompass the most intimate body covering. Fields illustrates how cultural studies and women's studies theory, the investigation of material objects, and the history of laboring people and women can be brought together to produce a compelling narrative. Both academics and general readers will find this book fascinating, for it has major implications for how all of us regard our bodies."—Lois W. Banner, Professor of History and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, and author of American Beauty
"Jill Fields has produced a remarkable book that reveals the ways in which intimate apparel has shaped modern conceptions of glamour, femininity, beauty, and sexuality. She brilliantly traces the creation of lingerie from the workers who made it to the advertisers who glamorized it to the women who bought it."—Steven J. Ross, Professor of History, University of Southern California
Short-listed for the Millia Davenport Publication Award, Costume Society of America
Sierra Book Prize, Western Association of Women Historians
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