Specs: Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed by Harold Koda. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001. $22.48 new.
Pros: By providing a cross-cultural and historical perspective, this book upsets standard arguments about body image.
Each section also addresses how the ideal of beauty has applied to men altering their bodies.
This book verified my love of certain designers (McQueen, Galliano, Gaultier) while piquing my interest in others (the Japanese avant garde, Thierry Mugler, Hussein Chalayan)
Cons: I wish the derriere hadn't been lumped in with the hips.
Someone needs to publish a similar book about makeup and hair.
Favorite Tidbits: The one physical feature that has been considered beautiful by all cultures throughout history is a long neck. (Thanks to all our Facebook fans who took a guess.)
The Golden Lotus, or bound foot, was the "ideal" physical transformation that lasted the longest, over a millennium, with little change.
Skirts in the eighteenth century could span nine feet.
Victorian corsets were designed to pull the shoulders down, thus lengthening the neck.
The pinups of the 1940s spawned the current chasm between what we consider fashionable and what we consider sexy.
Many cultures would devise shoe styles to keep a woman bound to the home as her mobility was considered tied to her virtue.
Venetian women of the eighteenth century would sport platforms up to 20 inches high.
Corsetry and skirt supports of the Victorian era were celebrated with engineering awards.