What do the thousands of images of bras and panties on perfectly sculpted bodies that we see spread across billboards and magazines say about our society? Many women indulge in lingerie to please men. Yet, since antiquity, women have always kept lingerie hidden away under outer garments. Thus, lingerie must be more than erotic bait. Authors Muriel Barbier and Shazia Boucher have researched iconography to explore the relationship of lingerie to society, the economy, and the corridors of intimacy. They correlate lingerie with emancipation, querying whether it asserts newfound freedoms or simply adjusts to conform to changing social values. The result is a rigorous scientific rationale spiced with a zesty humour. And the tinier lingerie gets, the more scholarly attention the authors believe it deserves.
Muriel Barbier is a talented postgraduate student at the École du Louvre where she now teaches 17th-to-19th-century decorative arts. She is also a lecturer at the Fashion and Textile Museum and other UCAD museums and Curating Assistant at the Galliera Museum.
Shazia Boucher is Curator at the Musée de la Dentelle in Calais, and often contributes to exhibitions on fashion, lingerie, and lace.
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