Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear

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9780684822662: Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear

In ancient Greece, women strapped lengths of cloth across their breasts and then covered them with tunics. These bosom protectors were the antecedents of the brassiere, which didn't come along until the 20th century. With the use of fine art, photography, film stills, cartoons, and ads, Unmentionables describes the social history of a subject that holds a powerful fascination for us all. 120 full color and b&w illustrations.

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Review:

"Boxers or Briefs?" has become a political litmus test for presidential candidates, but what does the answer really tell us? Quite a lot, argue Elaine Benson and John Esten in Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear. The question posed to Bill Clinton in 1992 may seem silly, but undergarments have a distinctly political part to play in history. During the women's movement, it was not effegies of men that women burnt, but bras, a daily reminder of difference--if not inequality. The history of underwear is an exposition that marks out the roles of culture and nature, the position of women, and the American love affair with the T-shirt. This thoroughly illustrated volume covers all, from the first fig leaf to the newest Fruit of the Looms and from bloomers to panties, revealing a side of humanity not often seen in public.

Review:

Without flogging the idea to death, Elaine Benson ... and John Esten ... suggest we are what we wear underneath it all.... The text is full of fascinating tidbits about the fripperies we take for granted.... The biggest news flash in Unmentionables? We finally learn what Scotsmen wear underneath those kilts. The answer is not "nothing." -- The New York Times Book Review, Judith Newman

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Elaine Benson; John Esten
Published by Simon & Schuster (1996)
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