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An Intimate Affair

An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    An Intimate Affair
    Book Description:

    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 Affairis 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94113-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction. Sexual Foundations
    (pp. 1-17)

    In February 2005, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 60–34 to ban the intentional display of “below-waist undergarments, intended to cover a person’s intimate parts, in a lewd or indecent manner,” with violators subject to a fifty-dollar fine. Though the bill’s sponsor believed the law was “a vote for character” that would “do something good not only for the state of Virginia, but for this entire country,” the proposal instead attracted widespread ridicule, and within a week, the bill quietly died by unanimous bipartisan vote in a state senate committee. In the interim, opponents to the bill, including representatives...

  6. 1 Drawers
    (pp. 18-46)

    The 1928 silent filmOur Dancing Daughtersopens with a shot of a nude female metal figurine shaped to capture a dramatic moment mid-dance. The shot dissolves as a pair of bowed white satin dress shoes, sitting in front of a three-sided mirror, fade in to replace the figurine. White-stockinged legs visible from midknee down slowly materialize and fill the shoes. The legs launch into a frenetic dance, their kicking feet turning to face the mirror. The dancing ceases briefly as hands lower into view a white pair of short silk closed-crotch drawers with a leg ruffle.

    These modern underpants...

  7. 2 Corsets and Girdles
    (pp. 47-78)

    During the nineteenth century, virtually all free-born women in the United States wore corsets. Yet from midcentury onward, the purpose and meaning of the corset generated heated debate among physicians, ministers, couturiers, feminist dress reformers, health and hygiene activists, and advocates of tight-lacing. Their lengthy argument suggests that keeping women in corsets was an ongoing project.

    In the early twentieth century, these corset debates intensified. Turn-of-the-century corset styles became even more constricting, and thus protests against their use gained ground. In addition, young women in the 1910s began to reject the Victorian moral sensibilities—and the fashions inspired by them—...

  8. 3 Brassieres
    (pp. 79-112)

    In 1937, Hollywood film director Mervyn LeRoy was looking for a young actress to play a small but pivotal role in his next film,They Won’t Forget.This social drama drew on a 1915 incident in which Leo Frank, a northern Jewish man, was lynched in a southern town after his questionable conviction for the murder of a local girl. He was later proven to be innocent. In the film, a white northern teacher suffers a similar fate after a sensational trial for the rape and murder of his female student. LeRoy’s dilemma in this restricted era of mainstream filmmaking...

  9. 4 The Meaning of Black Lingerie
    (pp. 113-173)

    Early twentieth-century mass-produced undergarments were predominantly white. This was reflected in the name “White Goods Workers” given to New York City’s Local 62, which formed during the mass strikes of 1909 known as the “Uprising of the 20,000.” Within the clothing industry, white goods manufacture was also known as the “women’s trade” because 95 percent of its workers were female. The use of both terms—white goodsandwomen’s trade—to refer to the production of apparel clearly linked with female bodily difference parallels the close association of American femininity with whiteness.¹

    White goods included petticoats, drawers, slips, corset covers,...

  10. 5 The Invisible Woman: Intimate Apparel Advertising
    (pp. 174-216)

    In August 1936, S. H. Camp, president of Camp Corsets of Jackson, Michigan, a leading manufacturer of “scientific corsets,” purchased a model of a female body manufactured in Europe. Camp correctly assessed the promotional potential of this nude transparent model that revealed the “complete structure of the female human body and its organs.” He brought it to the United States, arranged for its exhibition at the New York Museum of Science and Industry, and hired a manager for a Camp Transparent Woman national tour. By September 1937, Camp advertisements in magazines such as Vogue, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Hygeia, and Woman’s...

  11. 6 The Production of Glamour: Intimate Apparel Workers and Union Culture
    (pp. 217-255)

    In 1909, the first undergarment local formed in New York City under the auspices of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The working lives of these union members spanned key social and conceptual divisions that developed along with the ready-to-wear industry at the turn of the century. For the mass production of clothing both stands at and crosses over the boundary between the culture of consumption and the business of production. Its dual names—the “garment industry” and the “fashion industry”—suggest a place of importance in both spheres but also raise questions about the implications and effects of...

  12. 7 Return of the Repressed (Waist), 1947–1952
    (pp. 256-271)

    In February 1947, French couturier Christian Dior presented spring and summer fashions at his new salon. Dubbed the “New Look” byHarper’s Bazaareditor-in-chief Carmel Snow, the Dior style featured a long and full skirt, rounded shoulders, and a cinched waist. This silhouette was a dramatic departure from the shape of women’s clothing in the United States and Great Britain during World War II. In both countries, wartime shortages had prompted government regulation of fabric and materials that kept skirts straight and hems knee length. The crisis was more severe in Britain, where the “ Utility” dress became the state-sanctioned...

  13. Epilogue. Bra vs. Bra: Feminist Intimate Apparel Art
    (pp. 272-288)

    After the New Look became old hat, fashionable underwear again began to shrink in size and scope, but not in importance. Though undergarments were smaller, the rise of the feminist movement prompted closer scrutiny of the garments as profitable commodities and restrictive gender markers, and many women made their criticisms widely apparent. Countercultural and expressly women’s liberationist dressing practices melded within these critics’ rejection of confining foundation garments, objections similar to those made by turn-of-the-century corset opponents in the aesthetic and health and hygiene movements, and challenges mounted by high-fashion designers and tango-crazed youth in the 1910s. In the 1960s...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 289-360)
  15. Index
    (pp. 361-375)