11:00 am

Astrida Schaeffer – “The Sexual Politics of Women’s Fashion in the 19th Century”

schaefferIn our contemporary world of stretchy fabrics and loosely cut clothes, the idea of wearing corsets, hoops, bustles, and hip pads, seems uncomfortable and restrictive. Old photos of tiny waists and tight fitting dresses in museum exhibits look so extreme to modern-day women. How could they function? Weren’t they confined by their clothes? The real story is much more complex. Women had led active full lives for hundreds of years, taking advantage of fashion’s changing shapes to construct their own social identities. Yet by the end of the nineteenth century, with the rise of the women’s suffrage movement and women in the work force leading more independent lives, the corset and the closely-tailored clothes worn over it became symbols of oppression. This talk by clothing historian Astrida Schaeffer explores how women's clothing went from fashion statement to political statement.