An intimate affair : women, lingerie, and sexuality by Jill Fields

By Jill Fields

Intimate clothing, a time period in use via 1921, has performed a vital position within the improvement of the "naughty yet great" female perfect that emerged within the 20th century. Jill Fields's attractive, imaginitive, and complicated background of twentieth-century underwear excursions the realm of women's intimate clothing and arrives at not anything below a sweeping view of twentieth-century women's heritage through the undergarments they wore. Illustrated all through and drawing on a wealth of proof from style magazines, alternate periodicals, dress artifacts, Hollywood movies, and the documents of equipped exertions, An Intimate Affair is a provocative exam of the methods cultural meanings are orchestrated by way of the "fashion-industrial complex," and the ways that contributors and teams include, reject, or derive that means from those daily, but hugely major, intimate articles of clothing.

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However, at the same time, the rising consumer culture was increasingly commercializing female sexual expression, and select medical and psychoanalytic frameworks that pathologized female sexuality were gaining legitimacy. Yet women’s sexual identities still varied by class and race. 9 Combining elements of these two sets of historical methodologies and literatures reveals drawers’ critical role in constructing a feminine sexuality both erotic and modest. Without disputing the practicality of open- or closed-crotch drawers, I argue that erotic meanings of open drawers, particularly the ready sexual access to female bodies they provide, also served social functions.

Yet modifications in volume and length, while important, were similar to alterations in style that had occurred during the nineteenth century, when drawer length and volume rose and fell several times. 7 Significantly, costume historians have left the sexual meanings of open drawers unexamined, despite the psychoanalytic theories of fashion advocated by scholars such as J. C. 8 Nor has the topic appeared in the work of historians who explore the history of gender and sexuality through analysis of diaries, letters, advice books, medical and legal discourses, and popular culture texts.

41 One can interpret this mix in a number of ways. In that underwear is the most immediate layer of clothing worn next to the naked flesh and, too, because it covers the parts of the body often associated with sexual difference, it functions in a cultural sense to represent the body’s sexualized self-awareness of gender distinctions. Highly feminized underwear can reassure a woman or her intimates that underneath it all, a “real” woman exists at her core. However, the sensation of wearing such garments also holds some autoerotic potential.

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