Fashion has long seen the female body as a malleable entity, something to be moulded according to the dictates of complex social codes or the fickle whims of the fashion industry. By analysing the changing fashionable silhouette from the 18th Century to the present day, a new exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York (FIT) argues that the fashionable body has always been a cultural construct and one that needs to be challenged if we are to reach a greater acceptance of body diversity.
Part of what made these dresses so flammable was the same thing that made them so beautiful. These dresses were meant to give the illusion that women were dreamy, romantic figures, but that also meant they had air flowing around and through them. “If you imagine a sheet of newspaper and a hunk of wood, essentially, chemically, they are the same. But one will catch light way more quickly than the other. So if you have a very flimsy, flowing something that mixes well with air, it will burn quite readily,” says Martin Bide, a professor in the textiles, fashion merchandising, and design department at the University of Rhode Island.
Fines for wearing trousers and the threat of beatings are being handed to women in Sudan “like traffic wardens issuing parking tickets”, say the authors of a study on the country’s controversial public order regime. Researchers who carried out detailed interviews with 40 women who had fallen foul of the country’s discriminatory laws found corrupt officials are increasingly using the threat of flogging to elicit money. The majority of those jailed or beaten are marginalised women from low-income backgrounds or poor migrants who resort to the illegal practice of selling alcohol to feed their families, the report found.