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Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion, from Roman Times to the Modern Era

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Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of fashion trends reveals the flamboyant fashions adopted (and discarded) by our ancestors. In the days before cosmetic surgery, people used bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, painted their faces with poisonous concoctions, and doused t Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of fashion trends reveals the flamboyant fashions adopted (and discarded) by our ancestors. In the days before cosmetic surgery, people used bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, painted their faces with poisonous concoctions, and doused themselves with scent to cover body odor. Take a fresh look at history’s hidden fashion disasters and discover the stories behind historical garments: How removing a medieval woman’s headdress could reveal her as a harlot Why Tudor men traded in their oversized codpieces for corsets How crinoline caused a spate of shoplifting among Victorian ladies Karen Bowman charts our sartorial history from the animal skins first used to cover our modesty and show off hunting skills, right up to the twentieth-century drive for practicality and comfort. Corsets and Codpieces is a fascination read for history buffs and fashionistas alike.


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Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of fashion trends reveals the flamboyant fashions adopted (and discarded) by our ancestors. In the days before cosmetic surgery, people used bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, painted their faces with poisonous concoctions, and doused t Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of fashion trends reveals the flamboyant fashions adopted (and discarded) by our ancestors. In the days before cosmetic surgery, people used bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, painted their faces with poisonous concoctions, and doused themselves with scent to cover body odor. Take a fresh look at history’s hidden fashion disasters and discover the stories behind historical garments: How removing a medieval woman’s headdress could reveal her as a harlot Why Tudor men traded in their oversized codpieces for corsets How crinoline caused a spate of shoplifting among Victorian ladies Karen Bowman charts our sartorial history from the animal skins first used to cover our modesty and show off hunting skills, right up to the twentieth-century drive for practicality and comfort. Corsets and Codpieces is a fascination read for history buffs and fashionistas alike.

30 review for Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion, from Roman Times to the Modern Era

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Karen, darling, how can we take you seriously as a scholar of Regency fashion if you can't spell Jane Austen's name correctly? And then your illustrations vary between legitimate artifacts from the period under discussion to later Victorian imaginings. This is an amusing hodge-podge of a book with some delightful anecdotes and information, but it's not a rigorous history. Also, I hate coated-paper books. They're stiff and unpleasant in the hand. Karen, darling, how can we take you seriously as a scholar of Regency fashion if you can't spell Jane Austen's name correctly? And then your illustrations vary between legitimate artifacts from the period under discussion to later Victorian imaginings. This is an amusing hodge-podge of a book with some delightful anecdotes and information, but it's not a rigorous history. Also, I hate coated-paper books. They're stiff and unpleasant in the hand.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I'm going to start out by saying that this is not really a bad book. It's pretty mediocre, but it's not terrible. Corsets and Codpieces is an overview of historical fashions and clothes, and fashion history is one of my interests, particularly as how it ties into cultures and customs of the time as well. There is a little bit of that here, but it's largely just a costume history, with no attempt to tie it into any larger trends. It's also very narrowly focused on British fashion, with no indicat I'm going to start out by saying that this is not really a bad book. It's pretty mediocre, but it's not terrible. Corsets and Codpieces is an overview of historical fashions and clothes, and fashion history is one of my interests, particularly as how it ties into cultures and customs of the time as well. There is a little bit of that here, but it's largely just a costume history, with no attempt to tie it into any larger trends. It's also very narrowly focused on British fashion, with no indication of that on the cover, and written in some pretty dense prose that the average person might not be able to parse. It's mostly accurate, as far as I can tell, but there are a couple of really egregious errors, such as misspelling Jane Austen's name and mislabeling a (very famous) portrait of Marie Antoinette as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Now, while that's sort of an understandable mistake to make, it's still something the editor should have caught. Really, this needed several more passes to be a good book. Also, for the love of god, lady, turn down your hatred of corsets. They are not the worst thing ever. If they're properly fitted, they're actually very comfortable. Please. Please calm down. Overall, it's okay, but there are much better books on this subject. Seek them out instead.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This is an informative and just amazing book. I am not a fashionista (surprise) nor am I a student of fashion excluding periods of history I have some interest in. This book deals almost only with British fashion from pre roman until 1960s My largest take away was about legislation and clothing. I thought only kooky American government officials wanted to legislate clothing but it is a tradition going back to the earliest times. Which makes you realize that government has been excessively intrusi This is an informative and just amazing book. I am not a fashionista (surprise) nor am I a student of fashion excluding periods of history I have some interest in. This book deals almost only with British fashion from pre roman until 1960s My largest take away was about legislation and clothing. I thought only kooky American government officials wanted to legislate clothing but it is a tradition going back to the earliest times. Which makes you realize that government has been excessively intrusive and mostly useless for its entire existence. During the Elizabethan period there were actually persons stationed at the gates of London to check your ruff and saber sizes and to remove offending bits.... WTF seriously! This is a KU book and if you have KU I would recommend reading the chapter on Crinolines; a subject I was clueless about; and which makes any modern fashion trend look sensible and logical even those platform shoes with gold fish in them. For those of you who don't have KU or who think I'm a loon here's a brief overview. If you think a Crinoline is a puffy slip that goes under your wedding dress, no sorry. These were hoops of a graduated size, some of which became ridiculous that were covered with acres (slight exaggeration) of petticoats and skirts and truly killed people. The artist renditions show a woman seemingly swimming in a pond of dress. The best RL example I can come up with is remember the Toilet paper cover doll your granny crocheted and you had in the bathroom? That ridiculous. Also the dangers of death due to corset - horrifying.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Literary Chic

    A quick review of fashion, particularly female fashion, through the ages. Cute, interesting, but some obvious errors. (It could be an error in formatting, but any researcher/editor should know that it's Jane AustEn not AustIn.) An engaging read none the less. Basically, the Wonderbra and Spanx are offenders in a long line of items meant to enhance the female form. One of my favorite portions of the book was a quote from a Parliamentary bill from 1690 that made it a crime equal to witchcraft to s A quick review of fashion, particularly female fashion, through the ages. Cute, interesting, but some obvious errors. (It could be an error in formatting, but any researcher/editor should know that it's Jane AustEn not AustIn.) An engaging read none the less. Basically, the Wonderbra and Spanx are offenders in a long line of items meant to enhance the female form. One of my favorite portions of the book was a quote from a Parliamentary bill from 1690 that made it a crime equal to witchcraft to subject men to falsified feminine qualities. ("scents, paints, cosmetics, high-heeled shoes...shall incur the penalty of the laws now in force against witchcraft, sorcery...") A light-hearted look at some of the hilarious, inane and downright idiotic things woman (and sometimes men) have endured in the name of fashion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rob Atkinson

    I read this after a laudatory Sunday New York Times Book Review piece which ran in December 2016; frankly, I can't fathom why the review was so uncritical. While "Corsets & Codpieces" is entertaining for the most part, the book is often sloppily written and was very poorly edited. Spelling errors are common (even misspelling famous names -- Sir Thomas More rendered as 'Moore' and Jane Austen as 'Austin'!) and errors in punctuation, grammar etc. are frequent enough to detract from one's reading p I read this after a laudatory Sunday New York Times Book Review piece which ran in December 2016; frankly, I can't fathom why the review was so uncritical. While "Corsets & Codpieces" is entertaining for the most part, the book is often sloppily written and was very poorly edited. Spelling errors are common (even misspelling famous names -- Sir Thomas More rendered as 'Moore' and Jane Austen as 'Austin'!) and errors in punctuation, grammar etc. are frequent enough to detract from one's reading pleasure. Furthermore the title is rather misleading; this is rather narrowly targeted to a British audience and reflects the history of British fashion almost exclusively...this means some of history's most crazy fashion excesses, for instance the stilt-like chopines of Venice, Chinese shoes for bound feet and claw like finger jewelry extensions, African neck rings which distorted the body’s proportions, etc.,are completely ignored. Similarly, men’s fashion (men who wore corsets in the 19th c.., insanely long pointy medieval shoes, to name but two) get short shrift. This seems to me a huge missed opportunity. I’m hardly a fashion expert, but I am an avid social history reader and just generally curious, and the lack of depth and breadth here is unfortunate; if I know about these things, they’re not that terribly obscure. There are other strange lapses, as when in a discussion of rising hemlines in the 1920s no mention is made of Chanel's role in revolutionizing women's wear; oddly she only appears later on, in connection with women's trousers in the 1930s. Considering the wealth of visual material out there, the selection of illustrations is not always the best or most illuminating either, with a large preponderance of Victorian plates representing earlier eras. Overall this history of fashion's extremes is spotty but yields some interesting and amusing material; nevertheless at only 150 illustrated pages (plus a scattershot appendix of odds and ends) it definitely feels as if it could have used some fleshing out, and a much more demanding editor. Surprisingly for a non-fiction work of social history, there are also no footnotes and many quotations appear without any attribution. One wishes the book's editor had set the bar higher, and demanded more, as this fascinating subject certainly warrants a more thorough, better organized and scholarly treatment.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shiloah

    Exceptional! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves studying history and reading historical fiction. This book is jam-packed with interesting information on fashion over the centuries. It makes me that much more grateful for my yoga pants.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Fashion in different eras has always fascinated me, and whenever I read a novel or biography set in a particular time period, I always look up fashions of the era so I can accurately picture the people in the book. I was therefore intrigued and curious to read this book and learn some more details about fashions from the time of the Romans until now. There were some grammar and spelling errors that should have been caught by an editor. I'm no grammar nazi, so if I noticed it, it's pretty egregio Fashion in different eras has always fascinated me, and whenever I read a novel or biography set in a particular time period, I always look up fashions of the era so I can accurately picture the people in the book. I was therefore intrigued and curious to read this book and learn some more details about fashions from the time of the Romans until now. There were some grammar and spelling errors that should have been caught by an editor. I'm no grammar nazi, so if I noticed it, it's pretty egregious. Also, I would have loved a few more illustrations that depicted more specifically some of the articles described in the book. I had a hard time visualizing some things based on the author's description alone, so I ended up googling them. There ARE pictures, just not enough, and some of them are caricatures and comics, not meant to be literal representations. Some reviewers complain that, essentially, it's not academic enough, but I don't think it's meant to be. I think it's accurate as far as it goes, but definitely not an exhaustive look at the subject. I personally enjoyed it and found the previously mentioned detractors not enough to keep me from continuing to read with interest. I have a better understanding now how certain fashions evolved from one era to the next, and how those fashions were created (horsehair features prominently!). If you don't read anything else, read the chapters on crinolines and bustles. Hilarious! Literally laugh out loud funny.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Giselle Bradley

    This was the perfect book at the perfect time for me! I was so in the mood and I completely inhaled it. Why were people in the past so absurd?!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Turner

    The info is generally good but this would definitely have benefited from more editing and a more careful structure. There were a fair amount of redundancies and repetitions.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    Very dense and not informative enough to warrant it. It reads like a bad research paper - one that wasn’t quite long enough and that the student had to add a lot of unnecessary words to in order to meet a page minimum. The errors make it hard to take seriously and it’s not entertaining enough to be a strictly fun read. She seems very unreliable for a lot of little reasons. She tries to use “olde” English speak but mostly sounds silly. Also definitely not unbiased. Awkward phrasing. Amateurish. U Very dense and not informative enough to warrant it. It reads like a bad research paper - one that wasn’t quite long enough and that the student had to add a lot of unnecessary words to in order to meet a page minimum. The errors make it hard to take seriously and it’s not entertaining enough to be a strictly fun read. She seems very unreliable for a lot of little reasons. She tries to use “olde” English speak but mostly sounds silly. Also definitely not unbiased. Awkward phrasing. Amateurish. Untrustworthy. Dubiously researched. Not enough illustrations. Repetitive. Here is an example: "There were no gender assigned medieval colours, no pink for feminine or blue for masculine. It was in fact the reverse." Can't have it both ways Karen - either there are no assigned colors or they're the reverse of the modern ones.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    Living in the 21st century may have it’s drawbacks, but at least I don’t have to wear a powdered wig. The history of fashion is the history of people choosing to wear monstrously uncomfortable getups just to look stylish. Woman is born free, but is everywhere wearing hoop skirts and corsets. This is the story of emancipation (particularly for women) from restricting fashions. In Corsets and Codpieces Karen Bowman goes over the history of clothing with a focus on the stranger items. For example: “ Living in the 21st century may have it’s drawbacks, but at least I don’t have to wear a powdered wig. The history of fashion is the history of people choosing to wear monstrously uncomfortable getups just to look stylish. Woman is born free, but is everywhere wearing hoop skirts and corsets. This is the story of emancipation (particularly for women) from restricting fashions. In Corsets and Codpieces Karen Bowman goes over the history of clothing with a focus on the stranger items. For example: “Queen Margot, 1st wife of Henry IV of France (1533–1615), when seated at dinner, was obliged to have a spoon with a handle 2ft long for the purpose of passing her soup over her ruff, so as to keep it rigid and immaculate.” Instead of a two foot spoon, how about you don’t wear a crazy ruff? (Also, the two foot spoon may be an exaggeration.) This book is loaded with hilarious details and interesting pictures. We now live in an age of comfort. I can wear jeans to work, and it’s rare I have to noose myself with a tie. Women still wear some uncomfortable looking getups, but they are much better off as well. In Corsets and Codpieces we learn about the long road it took to get to these broad sunlit uplands of comfortable clothes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amber Spencer

    3.5. This was such a funny book about fashions and the reasons behind them. Most of the reasoning was hilarious and I laughed out loud.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

    RATING: 3 STARS (Review Not on Blog) This is a cool book that looks at the social history of fashion. More to the point, fashion that can sometimes be dangerous! There was an example of some girdles that not only give you an hourglass shape, but also move your internal organs. I did not read every section of the book as it was more of a reference book. I do recommend to anyone interested in social history or fashion or both!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    3.5 stars. A fascinating and informative study of British fashion. Some of the trends were ridiculous or even grotesque, also very unhealthy and even deadly on occasion. The book was lavishly illustrated with antique drawings of the clothing of different eras, and also photos to show some actual clothing. I wished for even more pictures as was finding the description of various costumes and accessories hard to visualize. There were also information on cosmetics, wigs, etiquette and negative reac 3.5 stars. A fascinating and informative study of British fashion. Some of the trends were ridiculous or even grotesque, also very unhealthy and even deadly on occasion. The book was lavishly illustrated with antique drawings of the clothing of different eras, and also photos to show some actual clothing. I wished for even more pictures as was finding the description of various costumes and accessories hard to visualize. There were also information on cosmetics, wigs, etiquette and negative reactions towards changing fashion trends. I book needed better editing as there were errors in grammar and spelling. Of interest to those interested in British social history and changes in fashion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    Probably a 3.5 star-read really. I really enjoyed the look at fashion through the ages, though this is by no means an exhaustive book on the subject. There are a lot of great details and anecdotes, plus social commentary of the times in which certain pieces were at their height of popularity. I found it interesting to learn which articles of clothing and/or accessories were quite dangerous, that I had never given much thought to before in that frame of mind. As always, the corset is the devil an Probably a 3.5 star-read really. I really enjoyed the look at fashion through the ages, though this is by no means an exhaustive book on the subject. There are a lot of great details and anecdotes, plus social commentary of the times in which certain pieces were at their height of popularity. I found it interesting to learn which articles of clothing and/or accessories were quite dangerous, that I had never given much thought to before in that frame of mind. As always, the corset is the devil and I can not imagine squishing my insides into unnatural states just to look thinner. I'll take my flab, thank you very much.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    An interesting, quick read that hits the highlights of fashion history in primarily the UK and Europe (with a bit of the US thrown in). Medieval headdresses, codpieces, doublets, farthingales, corsets, hoops, bustles, and short skirts, all the crazy things we put on our bodies to achieve specific silhouettes, stopping in the 1960s. I did drop it a full star to 3 because the author somehow neglected to cover the development of the brassiere (also the bust minimizers of the 1920s), which is kind o An interesting, quick read that hits the highlights of fashion history in primarily the UK and Europe (with a bit of the US thrown in). Medieval headdresses, codpieces, doublets, farthingales, corsets, hoops, bustles, and short skirts, all the crazy things we put on our bodies to achieve specific silhouettes, stopping in the 1960s. I did drop it a full star to 3 because the author somehow neglected to cover the development of the brassiere (also the bust minimizers of the 1920s), which is kind of the last major clothing change/development aside from specific fashions and hairstyles. The book could use better copyediting for typos as well.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I enjoyed this for the fun read it was. There was a tad too much “gossip” in it for me to take it too seriously, but really... how often do we associate crinoline with death? I don’t know if this is serious fashion history, but it was more pleasantly presented than most books on the topic I’ve read. It covers not only women’s fashion but men’s fashion, and the whole section about the development of men’s trousers and men actually bathing was amusing. Further, I knew about the stocking shortage dur I enjoyed this for the fun read it was. There was a tad too much “gossip” in it for me to take it too seriously, but really... how often do we associate crinoline with death? I don’t know if this is serious fashion history, but it was more pleasantly presented than most books on the topic I’ve read. It covers not only women’s fashion but men’s fashion, and the whole section about the development of men’s trousers and men actually bathing was amusing. Further, I knew about the stocking shortage during the Great War and how desperate women used gravy to paint their legs and draw a line for the seam. Overall, fun read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anatl

    A fun overview on the changing of fashions in the west from the middle ages to the 20th century. The book is interspersed with illustrated examples of the fashion, though I wouldn't mind more illustrations. The main thing I take from this book is how men and especially the clergy seem to disapprove of how ladies dress themselves all through the ages and no matter the fashion. A fun overview on the changing of fashions in the west from the middle ages to the 20th century. The book is interspersed with illustrated examples of the fashion, though I wouldn't mind more illustrations. The main thing I take from this book is how men and especially the clergy seem to disapprove of how ladies dress themselves all through the ages and no matter the fashion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Lee

    Some interesting information, but sadly I knew most of what was in this book. Still a decent read though. It does a great job of breaking the fashion down by *trend* rather than decade, since fashion doesn’t always adhere to our calendars. There’s also a good mix of description of the fashions and the social reactions to it. The inclusion of pictures and cartoons was particularly nice.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather Manley

    Obviously the author of this book has a vary strong and negative opinion on how dress was in the past. I honestly got very tired of the extreme negativity of the book. And basically had to force myself to finish it. Ended up rolling my eyes many times.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Good fun! It would be a good intro fashion history book for someone wanting to get started but not start with potentially stiffer academic reads.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bryson

    As a lover of history I have long read about men and women’s clothing throughout the ages, yet it has always been as a side note to the situations or events happening at the time. However a person’s clothing, the style of their hair, even the amount of hair upon their bodies or the materials that their clothing was made from can convey a wealth of information about a person. Luckily Karen Bowman has written a book dedicated to the appearance of both men and women throughout the centuries. This d As a lover of history I have long read about men and women’s clothing throughout the ages, yet it has always been as a side note to the situations or events happening at the time. However a person’s clothing, the style of their hair, even the amount of hair upon their bodies or the materials that their clothing was made from can convey a wealth of information about a person. Luckily Karen Bowman has written a book dedicated to the appearance of both men and women throughout the centuries. This does not just include their clothing but as mentioned the way a person wore their hair, the jewellery they wore, or lack thereof, the hair they had upon their bodies, what material their clothing was made up of and even the types of shoes they wore. From the Roman period right through to the modern day Bowman explores the changes in mankind’s choice of clothing and the way that people presented themselves. She moves periodically throughout the centuries exploring the major changes in both men’s and women’s fashions; detailing the major changes and differences in each time period and what was considered to be the height of fashion at the time. It was fascinating to read how a man and a woman’s choice of clothing reflected ideas of gender and sexuality during each age. A man throughout many centuries was deemed to be the superior sex and thus dressed according to this belief. Through their clothing, hair and accessories men presented themselves as stronger, more capable and far more intelligent than women. Women, seen as the weaker sex, were regulated in their clothing. Even style and design of their dress restricted a woman’s physical movements in some centuries so that they could not be as active as men. I was thoroughly invested in how this perception developed throughout the centuries and how leading up to the modern age women fought against these intrinsic beliefs and how in today’s day and age many women are believed to be the equal of men – and this is reflected in modern styles of clothing. Yet what a person wore was and still to some degrees is still more than just about gender. It was and can still be a visual indicator of a person’s station and position in the social hierarchy. Many people throughout the centuries strived to present themselves as something that they were not and this was done through the types and styles of clothing that they wore. During the reign of Henry VIII for example, there were sumptuary laws which dictated the materials and amount of various items that a person could and could not wear depending on their rank and income. The choice of a person’s clothing could reflect their religious views as well as their political opinions and loyalties. As Bowman points out in the 17th century a person’s dress could reflect their loyalty to King Charles I. Known as the Cavalier style, this form of dress reflected flamboyance and ones alliance to the King. On the other hand the Roundhead style of dress tended to be more conservative and expressed a person’s desire for a republic and their protestant believes. Clothing, dress style and appearance has changed dramatically throughout the centuries; religious beliefs, political and personal beliefs all playing a role in what men and women dressed themselves with. Within her book Bowman includes a range of fascinating images which help to reflect these varying changes in clothing throughout the years and I found myself pouring over these images, fascinated by what women had to physically endure for the sake of fashion. Even nowadays many women wear high heels or other forms of clothing that they find uncomfortable all in the name of “fashion”; it seems as though some things never change! For anyone interested in humanity, the growth and change of men and women over the centuries, women’s rights or simply anyone interested in clothing and design will absolutely love this book by Bowman. I highly recommend ‘Corsets and Codpieces’ for any bookshelf!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lil's Vintage World

    3.5 stars

  24. 4 out of 5

    M.A. Nichols

    I'd say this was an entertaining read. While I am skeptical about how historically accurate all the information is, it's an entertaining overview of British fashion. The writing was engaging, and I enjoyed reading it. I was looking for more detailed information about European fashions, but this still managed to be interesting. It really only features a couple fashions from each historical era in Britain, and then examines the extremes of it. While it doesn't explain the ins and outs of the clothi I'd say this was an entertaining read. While I am skeptical about how historically accurate all the information is, it's an entertaining overview of British fashion. The writing was engaging, and I enjoyed reading it. I was looking for more detailed information about European fashions, but this still managed to be interesting. It really only features a couple fashions from each historical era in Britain, and then examines the extremes of it. While it doesn't explain the ins and outs of the clothing from those periods, this book does give a great summary of the mindsets and evolution of these fashions. More than the details, it's an interesting look into what drove the fashion changes and what ripple effects they had. So, even though it didn't really give me the information I was looking for, it was still informative and interesting. However, it's clear that there are a lot of technical issues with the information. Everything from misspelled names of historical figures to the author contradicting herself about when things actually happened (like stating explicitly that a certain fashion didn't start until a specific year, then citing quotations that refer to the fashion existing before it). And I have to say I got a little tired of the feminist flag the author was rabidly waving the minute the book hit the 1900's. The way she finishes the book, it would sound like women have finally liberated themselves from the ridiculous fashions of the bygone eras. Never mind that women still starve themselves to fit physical ideals they can't attain and wear fashions that physically harm their bodies (high heels are murder on your feet and knees). Anyway, a decent read overall, but not something I would recommend for someone seeking an in-depth understanding of historical fashion.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Minke

    A nice read that takes you through the evolution of European fashion. I did skip around to eras that I was more interested in but overall a nice read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Spencer

    I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't even finish it. I don't know if it is poor writing, editing, or both. Information is frequently repeated, sometimes within just a page or two. The author seems to have spent all of her time reading critical descriptions of fashion. The illustrations from cartoons and drawings from later centuries far outweigh those of contemporary fashion plates or paintings, giving the impression that the exaggerated descriptions are accurate. The author constan I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't even finish it. I don't know if it is poor writing, editing, or both. Information is frequently repeated, sometimes within just a page or two. The author seems to have spent all of her time reading critical descriptions of fashion. The illustrations from cartoons and drawings from later centuries far outweigh those of contemporary fashion plates or paintings, giving the impression that the exaggerated descriptions are accurate. The author constantly falls into a " what were these silly women thinking?" mindset. In fact, she pretty much says as much in the section on crinolines, bemoaning the fact that women didn't listen to the men who were critical of them. Even while mentioning that people actually did wear these garments everyday, she seems to not understand the concept.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cloak88

    An interesting book. 3.5 stars As the title stats this is a book about cloths, fashion and and the circumstances in which these were worn and developed. Focusing mainly on western European fashion and British fashion in particular this was and interesting read. Though not all-encompassing there was plenty to marvel about. Ranging form practical wear, to the outrageousness of high fashion and the hidden messages send about just by wearing a beauty-spot. Overall this was mainly an informative book An interesting book. 3.5 stars As the title stats this is a book about cloths, fashion and and the circumstances in which these were worn and developed. Focusing mainly on western European fashion and British fashion in particular this was and interesting read. Though not all-encompassing there was plenty to marvel about. Ranging form practical wear, to the outrageousness of high fashion and the hidden messages send about just by wearing a beauty-spot. Overall this was mainly an informative book about the history of fashion. Additionally there was a sprinkling of modern commentary and occasionally criticism from a feminist perspective. Personally I had no real problem here, but other readers may find it occasionally somewhat jarring to mix the descriptions of historical fashion with modern critiques on corsets.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rhetta Akamatsu

    I struggled with whether to give this book 3 stars or 4. I settled on 4 because it was entertaining and I learned quite a lot. However, there were some flaws. My main complaint is that it ended too abruptly, going into great detail until around 1950 and then just skimming through the last 60 years or so. There was so much that could have been said about those decades! I felt as though the author just got tired of the subject and dropped it. Nevertheless, it was a book worth reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kay Hudson

    Entertaining, but spotty. The book does concentrate on the loonier fashion trends through history (corsets, bustles, hoop skirts, etc.), mainly from the British point of view. Certainly enough to make any woman appreciate casual and comfortable modern clothing. Fair number of illustrations (many in color), although not as many as I would have liked, particularly in the earlier sections. With an index and a fairly extensive bibliography, which might be useful for historical research.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Fascinating, if disgusting. A look at hygiene, living conditions, medical practices, health, and death in 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century Europe. Not for the squeamish, but absolutely fascinating. Well researched and written. You’ll never look at the Louvre or Versailles the same way again.

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