The way we depict women in this country has plenty to do with how we portrayed them just a few decades ago. Gil Elvgren was one influential man who offered his own lens and captured the spirit of the “American girl.” His iconic paintings, ads, and illustrations made him one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century.
I love how some of these are more blatant than others – some seems to scream “I would do anything to make you smile darling,” while others take a more subtle approach. But his illustrations are doubtlessly part of our consciousness even to this day. Each captures a particular notion of the mid-century American zeitgeist.
How did something renowned for making it impossible to breathe ever become associated with femininity and sexytimes? Restricted air flow brings that nice pale look to your your otherwise rosy complexion. Sexy!
Time to jump back in history and find out more:
Before cloth corsets, there were IRON CORSETS. Yes, made out of metal. An iron-hinged, armor-like corset was worn to flatten the body giving a smooth outline beneath gowns.
By the mid-to-late 16th century, linen corsets started being worn by more women. At least they were a bit lighter.
All a misconception: In the 16th century, the corset was not meant to draw in the waist and create an hourglass figure; rather, it was designed to mold the torso into a cylindrical shape, and to flatten and raise the bustline. There is one 16th century reference to a small waist being fashionable, but on the whole it was a fashionably flat-torsoed shape, rather than a tiny waist, that the corset was designed to achieve.
These corsets helped create a contrast between the rigid flatness of the bodice front and the curving tops of the breasts peeking over the top of the corset. Peek-a-boo!