Monday, January 15, 2018

Swanson on the Corset

Kara Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law has posted on SSRN "The Corset," her forthcoming contribution to A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects, edited by Dan Hunter and Claudy Op Den Camp and coming out with Cambridge University Press. Here is the abstract: 
Corset Sylphide (1899) (NYPL)
Two centuries ago, women and girls throughout the United States reached for one piece of technology first thing in the morning, and kept it with them all day long -- the corset. Although earlier men had worn corsets, the corset’s purpose by the mid-nineteenth century was to create the public shape of the female body. It emphasized (or depending on the whims of fashion, deemphasized), bust, waist, and hips in ways intended to accentuate differences between male and female. Today, the corset still fascinates, an emblem of femininity that appears on fashion runways, the concert stage (famously worn by pop star Madonna), and in blockbuster movies (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Gone with the Wind). Less visible are the ways the corset as an object of intellectual property has exposed the masculine assumptions in our understanding of technology, patents, and law.
For more on corsets, don't miss Ruth Goodman's How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-dusk Guide to Victorian Life and anything on Frida Kahlo's painted corsets.

H/t: The Faculty Lounge (on the book)

2 comments:

Shag from Brookline said...

This at the close of the abstract:

"Less visible are the ways the corset as an object of intellectual property has exposed the masculine assumptions in our understanding of technology, patents, and law."

has intrigued this 87 year old male lawyer who remembers corsets back in the late 1930s but can't recall any such assumptions other than the "hourglass" figure. Corsets seemed to disappear with America's entry into WW II. Hopefully a check of the article will be informative.

Shag from Brookline said...

I did read the article, about 5 pages short but packed with information revealing "such assumptions, including a 19th century SCOTUS decision that might raise eyebrows in the current Harvey Weinstein sexism atmosphere. Well done. Women did not get the right to vote until 1919. And the ERA was not timely ratified.