Extreme Beauty

The Body Transformed

Harold Koda

View Inside Price: $29.95

February 9, 2004
192 pages, 9 x 12
228 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300103120

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Published in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Over time and across cultures, extraordinary manipulations of the body have occurred in a continuing evolution of the concept of beauty. Fashion can be seen as the practice of some of the most extreme strategies to conform to shifting concepts of the physical ideal. Various zones of the body—the neck, the shoulders, the bust, the waist, the hips, and the feet—have been constricted, padded, truncated, or extended through subtle visual adjustments of proportion, less subtle prosthesis, and, often, deliberate physical deformation.

This stunning book shows that an undeniable if uncanny beauty abides in the bundled cylindricality of a geisha tottering on raised geta or clogs; the tea-tray supporting bustle of an 1880s French visiting dress; the double-door expanse of eighteenth-century panniered court gowns; the bound feet and caged nails of aristocratic Manchu women; the neck-extending chokers of the Masai, of Edwardian beauties, and of John Galliano’s designs for Dior; or the waist suppression of the sixteenth-century iron corsets and the cinches of early-nineteenth-century dandies. The photographs of fashion are augmented by paintings, prints, and drawings, including caricatures by Gilray, Cruikshank, Daumier, and Vernet.

Harold Koda is Curator of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Received Second place in the Popular Culture category given by ForeWord Magazine

“Enlightening and very readable. . . . This book is essential for costume collections.”—Library Journal

Extreme Beauty explores how different cultures defined beauty and gives examples of fashions stimulated by their customs.”—Gemma Hayward, The Independent (London)

“[This] well-produced, heavily illustrated volume makes costume history accessible and, indeed, entertaining.”—Colin McDowell, The Sunday Times

“This story of fashion’s language presents a fascinating and parallel glimpse into human history. Koda’s collection in Extreme Beauty is a landmark study of human customs and foibles in remarkable photos and intriguing text that show us what is and has been ‘in’ around the world.”—Susan Swartout, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

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