The shaping of women's bodies: in pursuit of the fashion silhouette

Fillmer, Carel (2010) The shaping of women's bodies: in pursuit of the fashion silhouette. Masters (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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Certainly the Western fashion silhouette has never been static, with hemlines and necklines morphing in and out and up and down over at least the past five hundred years. The emphasis has not been to enhance or flow with the natural contours of the body as did the ancient Greeks and Romans, but rather to manipulate and fashion the shape of the body to create what is considered to be the de rigueur shape or silhouette of the era. Given a constant female body shape, this has often been challenging.

Indeed, at various times, the achievement of the fashion silhouette has required the design and manufacture of a range of devices to assist in the artificial manipulation of various body parts. Undergarments which enhance or, alternatively, conceal the part of the body to be given most prominence and significance in a particular era or decade are the handmaiden of fashion and their necessity has spawned a parallel industry.

While this industry is still important today, there is no longer total reliance on external devices to shape the body, but rather less direct methods such as the gym, diet and/or cosmetic surgery. Bust enhancement no longer relies solely on the temporary support of a padded bra as there is the permanent option of breast implants. A corset can be replaced by the medical procedure of tummy tucks.

Research has traced the history of fashion, as it has also documented the undergarment solutions which have accompanied it. The cumulative effect of these inner and outer layers on the female body has not received the same attention. The purpose of this research is to explore ways of visually portraying the coalescence of the female body, shaping mechanisms, and the fashion silhouette at pivotal points across time.

The study identifies ten pivotal points of change to 2010 and documents key historical and contextual markers of change. It explores the conformity/ nonconformity of artists' depictions of the female nude with the achieved fashion silhouette of the time. The research thus demonstrates the extent to which the ideal fashion shape of each era has influenced the way the male artist perceives the female body shape by the way the fashion silhouette has been consciously or unconsciously superimposed on the naked form.

Various visual solutions were trialed in the search for a way of representing the three layers of body, undergarment/s, fashion outer garment/s. Ultimately a process of layering and animating hand rendered drawings was developed. The resultant DVD Seen Through Fashion provides a microscopic view of female anatomy, undergarments and the relevant fashion look for each pivotal period from 1066 to 2009. Accompanying the DVD are pedagogical notes which suggest ways in which the resource might be used for a range of applications from fashion history to medical training. In the latter area, of course, the contemporary obsession with the ideal body image has created multiple anxieties, low self-esteem and self-loathing in many women and, specifically, eating disorders in an increasing number of young women.

The thesis concludes with reflections on the process of creating the DVD, including consideration of technical issues in the production of this kind of animation, as well as an examination of a range of possible areas for further research, in particular to the synergy between old and new technologies.

Item ID: 29138
Item Type: Thesis (Masters (Research))
Keywords: Western fashion silhouette; historical markers; contextural markers; spatial changes; artificial manipulation; fashioning the body; visual representation
Date Deposited: 13 May 2014 01:24
FoR Codes: 12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1203 Design Practice and Management > 120306 Textile and Fashion Design @ 33%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190502 Fine Arts (incl Sculpture and Painting) @ 33%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190104 Visual Cultures @ 34%
SEO Codes: 89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8904 Media Services > 890401 Animation and Computer Generated Imagery Services @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 50%
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