Valerie Steele reshapes and recontextualizes ideals of feminine beauty and it’s reciprocal relationship to fashion, highlighting the erotic origin of both. A critical analysis of Victorian dress, society, and sexuality opens up new ideas concerning all three. Primarily, Steele obliterates the idea of the prudish Victorian era through carefully documented research and deft use of critical theory regarding the use of the corset. She radically revises our understanding of women’s clothing from the 1830’s into the 1930’s. Passages on the sexual origin of beauty, shifting erogenous zones of the body throughout history, details of the corset, and the genesis of modern “underwear” are fascinating. A wonderful and rich resource for scholars interested the cultural construction of embodied identity, I’m sure I’ll return to this text in the future.
Watch Valerie’s astute and fascinating thoughts on the corset and the cultural phenomenon of fashion: