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VISIT: See How Fashion Has Manipulated Women’s Bodies Through History

See how fashion has manipulated women’s bodies through time.

A new exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is taking a look at how fashion has manipulated and, at times, constricted women’s bodies throughout time. This exhibit showcases garments from as far back as the late 1700s to reveal our obsession with manipulating the body to create a standard of idealized beauty throughout history.

Indeed, our society even today is obsessed with clothing sizes and body shapes. And each decade seems to favor one shape and size over another. “The Body: Fashion and Physique” showcases items that reveal our obsession with creating the ideal, perfect female form. The oldest item in the exhibit is from the 1760s. It is a “stay” which is the grandmother of all corsets, made of silk and brocade. Corsets were introduced in the 1850s and are also on display. They show that a woman was able to put a corset on by herself with the help of hook and eye closures and a metal busk down the center. There are even 19th century corsets that are intended to be worn under a maternity dress!

Attendees can also view 1930s girdles.  Some were made of rubber in order to massage an area thereby melting fat at the same time.

By the 1960s, thinner figures were favored as women were wearing mini skirts and jumpsuits.  This meant more exercise and dieting to achieve this slender look as seen in the model Twiggy.

Today, the female body is more curvaceous as seen in Kim Kardashian, Coco Austin, and model Amber Rose. Women are now wearing external corsets in order to achieve an hour glass, full figured body.

It is interesting to see how women’s bodies have been manipulated throughout the years via bustles, sleeves, corsets and other items all in order to create the ideal female form. In this exhibit, there are over 60 items that reveal our concept of the “perfect” silhouette. Some of these seem other worldly such as a dress from the late 1800s that has an 18-inch waist and 31-inch bust. Clearly, throughout the centuries, women have been molded into our idea of physical perfection.

“The Body: Fashion and Physique” is open now at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology at 227 West 27th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan through May 5th, 2018.

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