November 29, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Wow. Its always interesting to see someone from 1899 expressing a position I've always agreed with.

I'll also point out that there are cross-cultural examples that Thorstein Veblen either did not cite, or did not cite in the chapter presented here. In pre-KMT China the practice of foot binding (which involved a *LOT* more than merely binding the poor girl's feet) had a similar purpose to that the author claims for the European corset.

Moreover the long fingernails favored by the male ruling elites of China served essentially the same purpose as the ceremonial dress, but with an added statement of power. Wearing expensive clothing may proclaim that the person wearing the clothing is at that moment not able to do productive labor. Having excessively long fingernails not only proclaims that the man with the fingernails is not currently able to work, but that he has not worked for a long enough time to grow his fingernails out.

Naturally, I like the first work cited. THe rest I haven't read yet.
posted by sotonohito at 7:32 PM on November 29, 2006

Meh, this is 107 years old. At this point it has a long, long gray beard, and a liver-spotted bald patch.

Actually I really enjoyed it - thanks!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:58 PM on November 29, 2006

"She is useless and expensive, and she is consequently valuable as evidence of pecuniary strength. It results that at this cultural stage women take thought to alter their persons, so as to conform more nearly to the requirements of the instructed taste of the time; and under the guidance of the canon of pecuniary decency, the men find the resulting artificially induced pathological features attractive. So, for instance, the constricted waist which has had so wide and persistent a vogue in the communities of the Western culture, and so also the deformed foot of the Chinese. Both of these are mutilations of unquestioned repulsiveness to the untrained sense. It requires habituation to become reconciled to them. Yet there is no room to question their attractiveness to men into whose scheme of life they fit as honorific items sanctioned by the requirements of pecuniary reputability. They are items of pecuniary and cultural beauty which have come to do duty as elements of the ideal of womanliness."

I highly recommend Veblen.
posted by uosuaq at 9:35 PM on November 29, 2006

What a great post with secondary and tertiary links that just add to the mix! And it is interesting the ways that fashion enrolls in the promotion of idleness. The fashions of Jakarta and Kazakhstan are one approach, Britney Spears latest outfits send the same message in a different way.
posted by beelzbubba at 6:35 AM on November 30, 2006

Huh, Britney Spears is only a 36C. I've got that beat: I'm a 42AA!
posted by davy at 8:00 AM on November 30, 2006

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