Monday, July 23, 2012

"Well Cut Through the Body"

My post the other day about ancient underwear was flip and meant to be funny, a failure to represent the level of understanding I do have of the history of human costuming.  Today I'll link a piece probably less accessible to a general audience, but to me significantly more fascinating because of its depth.

A silhouette arose during the post-Conquest period, in Europe, favoring length and slenderness.  Breasts were, ideally, very small and firm - "hard as an apple" - as a description, used even many centuries later, extolled.  The ideal sustained for a very long time, in an age when marriage often involved brides who were very young indeed - though of course it waxed and waned even in those centuries of "get them young, get them virginal."

As interesting to me as anything is the science, in fashion, of *exposure*.  Some may recall my posting about the vogue for nipples in 18th century muslin; here, in another lengthy article we have discussion of side lacing - and the nakedness of skin underneath ancient lacings.


Just yesterday I was in church and saw a kid with a bright turquoise curly mohawk.  Being a middle aged old thing in church, it may be it looked like I was ogling the weird youngster.

In reality, I was remembering a bet, thirty years ago.  My brother had a mohawk then, and a classmate who also went to our church bet him (was it twenty dollars, Mojourner? I always remember it as being a pretty good sum) he wouldn't show up there looking so crazy.

She bet against our mom, who wasn't letting anyone out of church for shaving any PART of their heads (replayed a few years later, when I only nipped one side off).  And he won the wager, easy.

What I was thinking, in fact, was that it's sort of funny something which wasn't even completely new 30 years ago is still considered shocking.  Aww.  It's sort of cute.

We didn't invent ... any means of covering, uncovering, nor even actually modifying our bodies any time recently.  None of it.
Cut out sides exposing underwear and naked skin are at least 900 years old.  Exposed nipples probably go back more than the 200+ noted in that link above.  Bras aren't 19th century, and string bikinis have enough sensibility of design we may have been echoing the design even half a millennium ago as well.  Cinching in the midriff, manipulating the breasts, men in long hair, women shaving their skulls (for that matter bodily depilation of both sexes, and not just the head) ... we've done many of the same things through history.  We also use similar techniques to do different things, or come up with new ones to do same-old things ...

Mohawks were wild when this middle-aged woman was a little kid.  They're still shocking The Normals, and tight-laced men and women were a subculture countless generations ago.  Funny how some things don't change:

(Pretty sure this model is a certain acquaintance of mine ...)


Mojourner said...

Very educational, on three counts:
1. Apparently I once won a bet, which means that I actually WAGERED.
2. Diane L Major has misremembered the part where weird haircuts actually DID relieve me from duty in church and family photos fairly often.
3. Dressed in side-laced leopard skin, Jewel is actually pretty hot.

DLM said...

I thought it was the surly attitude and a strategically slammed door/cranked record player that got you out of church - not the hair!

Jewel. Hee.