AB: Lord – Freaks of Fashion

(This is an entry in the Annotated Bibliography.)

Lord, William Barry. Freaks of Fashion: The Corset & the Crinoline (1868). Mendocino, California: R.L. Shep, 1993.

This is a reprint of an 1868 book, The Corset and the Crinoline, which was re-issued in 1870 as Freaks of Fashion. This book is not useful as a record of historical fashion, or as a record of the 19th century tight-lacing controversy; it is actually a thinly disguised fetish book designed to be titillating and shocking, and is in no way a reliable historical source. While the editorial notes included with the reprint claim that “Obviously, the book arose out of the long term controversy over the evils of the corset and tight-lacing,” further research and a close reading of the text (or examination of the images) make it clear that that is not the case. For further information about the fetishistic nature of Lord’s book, and its role in perpetuating and fueling popular myths about the corset, see The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele. Steele debunks many of the myths included in Lord’s book, which is an extremely unreliable source, but which nevertheless is widely cited and drawn from. Indeed, most references to the infamous and essentially nonexistent (except for orthopedic purposes) 17th century or earlier steel corsets involve a direct or indirect reference to this book. It is significant simply because it has been so widely used and is so distinctly incorrect. Not a useful resource, except in examining corset mythology or connections between fashion and eroticism. It is not instructional. It contains highly unreliable, fetishistic, monochrome images. It does not contain a bibliography.

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