Shaping Femininity: Foundation Garments, the Body and Women in Early Modern England

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Oct 7, 2021 - Design - 352 pages
Highly Commended, Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial Book Prize 2022

In sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, the female silhouette underwent a dramatic change. This very structured form, created using garments called bodies and farthingales, existed in various extremes in Western Europe and beyond, in the form of stays, corsets, hoop petticoats and crinolines, right up until the twentieth century. With a nuanced approach that incorporates a stunning array of visual and written sources and drawing on transdisciplinary methodologies, Shaping Femininity explores the relationship between material culture and femininity by examining the lives of a wide range of women, from queens to courtiers, farmer's wives and servants, uncovering their lost voices and experiences. It reorients discussions about female foundation garments in English and wider European history, arguing that these objects of material culture began to shape and define changing notions of the feminine bodily ideal, social status, sexuality and modesty in the early modern period, influencing enduring Western notions of femininity.

Beautifully illustrated in full colour throughout, Shaping Femininity is the first large-scale exploration of the materiality, production, consumption and meanings of women's foundation garments in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England. It offers a fascinating insight into dress and fashion in the early modern period, and offers much of value to all those interested in the history of early modern women and gender, material culture and consumption, and the history of the body, as well as curators and reconstructors.
 

Contents

Introduction Investigating the structured female body
1
1 The foundations of the body Foundation garments and the early modern female silhouette
19
2 The artificial body Courtiers gentlewomen and disputed visions of femininity 15601650
57
3 The socially mobile body Consumption of foundation garments by middling and common women 15601650
87
4 The body makers Commissioning and making foundation garments in early modern England
117
5 The everyday body Assumptions tropes and the lived experience
153
6 The sexual body Eroticism reproduction and control
189
7 The respectable body Rising consumption and the changing sensibilities of late seventeenth and early eighteenthcentury England
221
Conclusion Misconceptions and legacies
249
Glossary
255
Notes
261
Bibliography
297
Illustrations
315
Index
327
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About the author (2021)

Sarah A. Bendall is Research Fellow in the Gender and Women's History Research Centre, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Australia.

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