Beauty or torture? New exhibit examines society’s demand for perfection
Published - 11/07/17 - 01:16 PM | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Women’s Museum will be showcasing items from their own collection including dangerously high heels, corsets, curling irons, and vintage makeup.
The Women’s Museum will be showcasing items from their own collection including dangerously high heels, corsets, curling irons, and vintage makeup.
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The Women’s Museum of California in Liberty Station has opened their latest exhibit, “Beauty or Torture,” which explores how women across the ages have gone to extreme measures to alter their looks, often in painful ways, in order to conform to beauty standards of the time.

From the Gibson Girl to the Instagram model, “Beauty or Torture” showcases the ways women have conformed to various beauty demands across multiple decades and reveals how those demands affected every day women's physical health as well as their perceptions of self-worth.

The Women’s Museum will be showcasing items from their own collection including dangerously high heels, corsets, curling irons, and vintage makeup.

“The WMC Clothing Collection houses many fascinating pieces, including various corsets from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, to wire crinolines, to earlier versions of the modern bra,” said Julia Friedman, Women’s Museum collections manager. “Many of these pieces have never been displayed in our gallery, and we are thrilled for the public to view these significant pieces of women's fashion history for the first time.”

“Beauty or Torture” is curated by fashion and costume historian, Marley Healey. Healey works as a historical textile consultant and reviews fashion-based exhibitions along the West Coast and is working on a long-term curatorial research project around dress-based collections in Southern California.

As for the significance of this exhibit, Healey explains, “Ideas about what constitutes physical beauty have fluctuated radically for centuries, and in 2017 the conversation is as relevant as ever. This exhibit will illuminate how women have navigated shifting beauty standards with the help (and occasional horror) of some extreme tools and styles.”

“Beauty or Torture” runs through Jan. 28, at the Women’s Museum of California in Liberty Station, 2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16. Admission is  $3 to $5.

For more information, visit womensmuseumca.org.
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Ann Grogan
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November 08, 2017
Yet another museum display that plays into the common stereotype that corsets were, or are, "often painful" and "extreme" fashion choices! So sad to read this, because today's woman may shy away from trying a beautiful, hand-designed and cystin crafted garment of exquisite quality and durability (sometimes up to 20 and more years of wear with proper wear and care for pennies at each wearing), well fitting, and truly comfortable custom corset--rather than those $25 wannabe corsets--latex trainers (popularized by K. Kardashian) or imported eye-candy, powernet shapers, or other underwear that rolls up, falls over, wrinkles, pinches, fabric shreds, or improbably fit creates back boobies! Even in Victorian times a close look at fashion history shows that those who complained and/or suffered were usually those young women who during late childhood did not go into softly boned bodices, and who were laced down precipitously into pain. The point is: choose the right style fully-custom corset for the right purpose, exercise moderation in wearing any fashion (including five-inch leather stilettos), season the garment, don't over-lace or ever suffer, and above all, choose what to wear and how to present yourself according to your own aesthetics and no one elses. Ann Grogan, President, ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry (San Francisco)
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