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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Seattle Art Show Looks at How Style can Lead to Suffering

Most women -–and a growing number of men-- are familiar with the unparalleled feeling of making a grand entrance in a perfectly suitable and unforgettable outfit. With the right suit or dress, a choice pair of shoes, accessories that bring out all the beauty of the clothes, and hair and makeup that effortlessly creates an otherworldly glow, stepping out on the town or even heading in for the night in dressed-to-impress style can create a great sense of confidence and is able to fashion incredible impressions and memories. But the majority of people who've enjoyed this singular phenomenon are also likely familiar with the old adage that pain is beautiful; in numerous ways, some which seem unfortunate and entirely inadvertent, and others that seem questioningly deliberate, beauty has caused suffering to various degrees throughout the human preoccupation with the subject.
Recently, a museum exhibit in Seattle has opened its doors to the public, and explores who women have suffered for beauty throughout different periods of history, along with an investigation of how even today some women choose to incorporate painful practices or uncomfortable garments in the name of style. The show is helping many women and men alike consider the role of pain in beauty, and to question the necessity of this seemingly endless element of popular style.
There are several items from the past that easily connote the suffering that women have gone through in order to achieve ideal forms; from tight-lacing corsets that make breathing -–not to mention walking and bending-- fairly difficult, to cultural traditions such as Chinese foot binding, most parts of the world in most periods of time have developed a certain kind of restrictive style. In today's society, it might be easy to suggest that we've done away with such devices, yet a quick reflection on liposuction, laser hair removal, permanent makeup applications, tight spandex undergarments, and other procedures and specialty items will reveal that while forms may have changed, beauty's link to pain is as lively as ever.
Certainly, jewellery has had a role to play in this story, since its very beginning. From piercing jewellery intended to decorate intentional body modifications to weighted earrings and full collar necklaces that stretch the body in unusual ways, jewelry items have sometimes demanded a hefty price for their stylish payoff. Of course, most modern types of jewellery aren't hiding any painful intentions, and costume jewellery a particularly good choice for attaining a high style quotient while remaining perfectly comfortable. Still, as we sit back, bedecked in lightweight jewels that sparkle without stinging, we can appreciate the journey that jewellery and clothing items have made throughout time -–and the women who have sacrificed a bit of comfort for a lot of couture appeal.

a woman modeling a Victorian corset

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