By Jill Fields

Intimate clothing, a time period in use by way of 1921, has performed a very important function within the improvement of the "naughty yet great" female perfect that emerged within the 20th century. Jill Fields's enticing, inventive, and complex heritage of twentieth-century underwear excursions the area of women's intimate clothing and arrives at not anything below a sweeping view of twentieth-century women's historical past through the undergarments they wore. Illustrated all through and drawing on a wealth of facts from model magazines, exchange periodicals, gown artifacts, Hollywood motion pictures, and the documents of geared up exertions, An Intimate Affair is a provocative exam of the methods cultural meanings are orchestrated via the "fashion-industrial complex," and the ways that contributors and teams embody, reject, or derive that means from those daily, but hugely major, intimate articles of clothing.

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From the breast binding in the 1920s to the uplift and separation of the breasts and their fetishization in 1940s sweater girls and pinups, brassiere design and marketing profitably deployed twentieth-century mechanisms that objectified female embodiment. Cup sizes, invented in 1935, encouraged objectification of the female body through the new practice of measuring the breast’s width and depth, as well as through classification of women’s bodies by standardized brassiere sizes. The glamorous and transformative power ascribed to large, firm, and uplifted breasts explains their enduring popularity among women from the late 1930s to the present.

The implication, and reality, of sexual access implied and permitted by open drawers coexisted with Victorian propriety and its ideology of female passionlessness and masculine domination. However, the meanings of the open crotch shifted when women began asserting group and individual claims to political power, economic independence, and sexual pleasure. By 1930, a reversal in the meaning of open-crotch drawers had occurred; when sexual access became coupled with modern female desire for skimpier fashionable attire and satisfying erotic experiences, opencrotch drawers became associated with immodesty and lasciviousness.

For women to engage in this masculine act, and to appropriate their new garment’s name from the lexicon of menswear, blurred what had been a clearly marked gender boundary. Materially distinguishing female from male drawers kept that reworked boundary from shifting further. Thus, the long-held association of divided garments or trousers with masculinity and undivided garments or skirts with femininity influenced the design, use, and implications of women’s drawers. Feminized by their fabric, ornamentation, and open-crotch construction, the virtually separate leg sections of nineteenth-century women’s drawers were joined only at the waistband.

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