From the bizarre steatopygous forms of Victorian bustles to the haunting facial masks on medieval helmets, Tanya Marcuse has illuminated the complex relationship between body and clothes, with all the ambiguities this entails. — from the essay by Valerie Steele Since time immemorial, humans have sought to cover parts of their bodies, with materials ranging from animal skins to the finest silk. Clothing not only keeps us warm and protected, it allows us to alter our appearance and the way others might regard us. Tanya Marcuse’s fascinating photographs show that although clothing on its own can look strange and inanimate, it also has a story to reveal. The undergarments she presents here are the kind that would most likely have been kept well-hidden from view, for these are the hard foundation garments such as corsets and bustles that – invisible on the outside – could completely change the shape of their wearer. Conversely, the rigid outer shell of armor would blatantly transform the appearance of the person concealed inside. For women, these undergarments enhanced (so they believed) their beauty and status; for men, the armor likewise presented their desired image – strength and bravery – to whoever crossed their path.
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