Fashioning the Body An Intimate History of the Silhouette Denis Bruna, Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts

Publication date:
15 Mar 2015
Yale University Press
272 pages: 279 x 222mm
207 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

A witty and stylish look into the mechanics employed by men and women to sculpt their figures for fashion

This unique survey offers fascinating insights into the convoluted transformations employed by both men and women to accommodate the fickle dictates of fashion. With high design, wit, and style, Fashioning the Body tracks the evolution of these sartorial devices—from panniers, crinolines, and push-up bras to chains, zippers, and clasps—concealed beneath outer layers in order to project idealized figures. Women’s corsets constricted waists; exaggerated buttocks and hips counterbalanced jutting bust lines; and chic, aerodynamic silhouettes compressed breasts and flattened bellies. Yet masculine fashion has been no stranger to these tortuous practices. Men flaunted their virility by artificially broadening their shoulders, applying padding to their chests, and slipping codpieces over their groins. With more than 200 beautiful illustrations—including reproductions of superb historic advertisements—Denis Bruna reveals the industry and art of these contrivances meant to entice and beguile as well as assert status and power. Contemporary haute-couture designers Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Christian Lacroix, and Vivienne Westwood are featured in this indiscreet tour of intimate fashion history. 

More about this title

For a video on the 'Fashioning the Body' exhibition, made by The Bard Graduate Center, please click here.

Curator of pre-19th-century fashion and textile collections at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.

"Featuring period pieces, paintings, cartoons and fashion photography, this book tears apart the seams of fashion history to reveal the silhouette, from the Middle Ages to the present day."—The Lady