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The Production of Glamour: A Social History of Intimate Apparel, 1909-1952

by Jill Susan Fields

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Glamour is a concrete commodity and a less tangible, but no less real, cultural icon. Glamour’s dual status as both manufactured object and signifier requires extending the scope of investigation into the history of intimate apparel to include production as well as consumption. This means analyzing intimate apparel in terms of its fabrication and distribution as a manufactured good and an object of material culture, and also as a presentation of the female body and as a producer of meanings which circulate in more elusive cultural forms. Thus, the production of glamour takes place in multiple locations. These include the shop floor and the department store, advertisements and movies, and the female body itself. The period begins with the decline of the rigid nineteenth-century corset, a key factor in the transition to twentieth-century fashion, and continues until the revival of fashionable corsetry after World War H. Augmented by analysis of costume artifacts, initial chapters explore the history and meaning of selected undergarments-drawers, corsets and girdles, and brassieres—within the changing social context of American women’s lives. Subsequent chapters examine the advertising and mass production of these garments. These chapters reveal how glamour works as a powerful mechanism for mediating tensions generated by the social and ideological division between production and consumption.

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