Honore Daumier cartoon. “C’est unique! J’ai pris quatre tailles juste commes celles là dans ma vie” (It’s amazing! I’ve had four women of just these sizes in my life!). Reproduced in Le Charivari (February 7, 1840). Currently in the Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library
Rachel Thompson argues that the body becomes divorced from nature when it secularised and can become moralised through modification. It is this moralisation that leads to the belief that body perceptions refer to an ideal/original form. The identity that comes with bodily difference has been lost through commodification, and nature is banished in favour of “social and sexual respectability” (2000, p.143). It therefore follows that the true body does not exist in one form, rendering the natural/original shape unachievable. As there are a multiplicity of equally-deserving bodies, fashion inevitably pre-empts body prejudice to an ideal which, as Daumier illustrates, is fickle…
…The signification of underwear has changed to the extent that we modify our bodies in order to look beautiful in garments that would previously have created the desired shape. According to The Ultimate Bikini Guide (2006), these garments have become commonplace in visible fashions, to the extent that £45million a year is spent on bikinis in the UK. Furthermore, “the move from inside to outside is always bound up with questions of class, morality, and, sometimes, national identity” (Koda, 2004, p.55). In the eighteenth century, the only women who would wear their corsets and stockings in plain view were prostitutes. Underwear has not only translated into outerwear, it has moved from something that creates ideology to something that dictates it.
From the paper “Il faut souffrir pour être belle” – A Look at the Discourse Behind Body Sculpture in the (Post)Modern Era.