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Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed Hardcover – December 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Metropolitan Museum of Art Series
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art; First Edition edition (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300091176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300091175
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Throughout history, humans have used clothing and accessories to lift, squeeze, frame and pad the body. In Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed, Harold Koda deftly weaves anthropology, sociology, art history, and haute couture into a lively survey of shifting notions of the body beautiful. Divided into five sections--Neck and Shoulders, Chest, Waist, Hips, and Feet--the book surveys fashion's literal imprint on the body while tracing the history of clothing styles. The long neck may be the only bodily ideal equally prized by all cultures. Young Padaung women of Burma traditionally wore weighted brass coils that pushed down their collarbones and shoulders, creating the illusion of a remarkably long neck. The wide van Dyke lace collar achieved a similar "triangulated" shoulder-line in 17th-century Europe. Fashionable women in the 1830s relied on hugely inflated sleeves—-held up with down-filled or wire-ribbed supports—-to create the rounded dropped shoulder then in vogue. In the "Feet" section, Koda, who remains scrupulously nonjudgmental throughout, juxtaposes the miniaturized "Golden Lotus" bound foot of pre-Revolutionary China with the reshaping effect of today's stiletto heels. The platform shoe was another way of encumbering a woman's gait, whether as a way of keeping her at home (away from sexual temptation) or as a means of showing her off (the courtesans of Japan and Renaissance Venice perched on elevated soles). Men's body-altering fashions also get their due, from sculpted codpieces and male waist-binding to a front-padded shirt by Issey Miyake that resembles a baseball catcher's uniform. Koda's discussions of the historical allusions of avant-garde designers like Viktor and Rolf, Olivier Theyskens, and Hussein Chalayan vividly illuminate an often murky aspect of contemporary couture. Copiously illustrated with works of art and photographs of clothing and undergarments from many eras, Extreme Beauty packs a wealth of information into a slender volume. —-Cathy Curtis --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

High-heeled shoes, push-up bras, Elizabethan ruffs and Japanese platform clogs are just a few examples of clothing that has pushed and pulled the human form into new shapes in the last few centuries. With color photos and illustrations, Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed, which accompanies a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit of the same name, traces the role of fashion in manipulating the body to fit physical ideals. Harold Koda, curator of the Met's Costume Institute, focuses on extreme exaggerations of human form like the European 19th-century bustle, tiny corseted waists or the enormous-hipped dresses of the 18th-century French court, but also shows how today's designers quote and send up these iconic shapes.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 81 people found the following review helpful By John Joss on February 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sentient humans with brains as well as bodies have always been fascinated by the way we adorn ourselves and why. Once we can get past the cultural anthropology of fashion, and the fads that make it a billion-dollar world industry, we can dig down to discover the roots of historical and current adorned beauty, and EXTREME BEAUTY does this . . . beautifully.
It is pleasing--in an era in which physical beauty and adornment typified by fashion have been roundly rejected by most of the jeans-wearing public--to find a book that lets beauty out and helps us exercise our sense of mystery and wonder, based in no small part on human sexuality and attraction. Harold Koda (curator of the Costume Institute at New York's Met) has mounted a show and created a book with marvelous insights and passion, and the illustrations are wondrous--consider, as a case in point, Thiery Mugler's 'Chimere,' with its savage eroticism.
One could quibble with Koda's arbitrary division of the body into 'neck and shoulders,' 'chest,' 'waist,' 'hips' and 'feet,'
and his exclusion of the fascinating face/head/hair perplex, and the hands, with their magical touch and allure. But this book and its illustrations will become a benchmark by which human adornment is judged, and is a keeper of power and importance.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By M. Healey on April 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Extreme Beauty is a wonderful book that celebrates the Metropolitan's equally brilliant exhibit about fashion and it's different preoccupations with the body. The exhibit was magnificent, and the book truly honors the tone and feeling of it, while being extremely informative in it's own right. The book is divided into different chapters such as neck and shoulders, waist, chest, etc. Each chapter features photos of the garments displayed in the original exhibit, as well as additional historical drawings and photographs of the various fashions and cultural trends that have celebrated the parts of the body. And, as promised in the title, the book explores the cultural foundations of bodily transformation and mutilation(?) through everything from extreme corsetry, [..] footwear and peircing to the tribal women who use metal rings to actually elongate their vertebrae. Harold Koda's insightful and meticulously researched commentary is just the icing on the cake. This is a must for any fashion library, but also of great interest to non-fashionistas.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By fatal_degree on December 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book illustrating the different ways cultures reform the body and for what reasons. It is just like actually visiting an exhibit at a major museum. But this you get to take home and enjoy over and over. The photos are plentiful, full color, large and professional. The text is not overly scholarly, but informative and intelligent. It does leave me wanting to delve deeper into the subject intellectually.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Harold Koda's Extreme Beauty surveys concepts of fashion and beauty. Koda considers the evolving, changing strategies of beauty around the world, focussing on different body parts and how they are accented and displayed through varying uses of clothing and cultural perception. Black and white and color photos of unusual fashion choices and styles make for some eye-opening insights.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
EXTREME BEAUTY is one of the more interesting challenges for a museum exhibition one could imagine. But miraculously the Metropolitan Museum pulled it off and this catalogue documents that very popular exhibition. The catalogue/monograph is an art work itself, so well designed it is with beautifully balanced photography and text. It is refreshing to sit and study these pages of accoutrements to the world of fashion when our eyes are so blurred with the skimpy, minimal clothing seemingly designed to displayed the growing obsession with complex and multicolored tattoos we see on the ladies of the day.

The catalogue, like the exhibition, is divided into Neck and Shoulders, Chest, Waist, Hips, and Feet - five areas where the focus is restricted to each area mentioned but never confined or isolated in regards to the rhythm of the design of the entire outfit. Each section displays cultural fashions form around the world, each culture emphasizing different body parts. This is an historical survey of the many changes that have occurred throughout the past. As one observer phrased the exhibition 'Over time and across cultures, extraordinary manipulations of the body have occurred in a continuing evolution of the concept of beauty. This exhibition will offer a unique opportunity to see fashion as the practice of some of the most extreme strategies to conform to shifting concepts of the physical ideal. Various zones of the body--neck, shoulders, bust, waist, hips, and feet--have been constricted, padded, truncated, or extended through subtle visual adjustments of proportion, less subtle prosthesis, and often deliberate physical deformation.
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