Sex and Suits

by Anne Hollander

Paper Book, 1995




New York : Kodansha International, 1995.


From an art historian admired for her brilliance and wit, a provocative argument for the value of modern fashion as sexual expression, with the tailored suit as its strongest example.Dress was equally showy for men and women until the late eighteenth century, when natural simplicity and understatement on the model of the Classical Greek nude became fashionable, but for men's clothes only. After that, obvious sexual display in dress was left to women - and it came to seem both shameful and esthetically inferior by comparison, despite its variety.Hollander shows how modern women adapted men's tailoring to their richer scheme of display, making suits do for women what they had long done for men: show their sexuality to be central, serious and interesting, rather than irrational, shallow and dangerous. She shows us, too, how men - now that women have adopted every element of male style - are recapturing the color and ornament they long found taboo, without giving up the potent beauty of tailored suits, which women have made universal.Richly informed, surprising, entertaining, Sex and Suits gives us a fresh view of what we have long taken for granted, and a new context for thinking about our society.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ajvbooks
A through and interesting essay on fashion history. Mostly about women's wear and cultural attitudes by means of discussing the evolution of the man's suit. A very interesting read for anyone interested in fashion history or sociology.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Anne Hollander takes the history of fashion, and more specifically, the history of the tailored suit, thread by thread. In the beginning clothes for men and women were equally elaborate and meaningful. It wasn't until the late eighteenth century when a divide between the sexes started to emerge. Fashion for men became simpler while women's wear got more complicated. Styles for women boasted of sexuality while men were more subtle and subdued. Women took advantage of male fashion and twisted it to suit their statements. As with anything, the lines are being blurred again as men find inspiration in styles designed for women. One of the most fascinating points Hollander makes about dress for man and women is the phenomenon of identical identity. She argues that if men are dressed in identical tuxedos their unique faces would stand out in relief, just as women dressed in a variety of styles would all have the same face.… (more)


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