Book Review: An Intimate Affair by Jill Fields
by Andrew Sia

I’ve had this book in my possession for a little while now. According to the author, the book began as a research paper while she was a graduate student at the University of Southern California. The paper further developed into her doctoral thesis although she didn’t enter graduate school with the idea of the book in mind. Obviously one thing led to another and her papers were published as this book.

The book presents the history of intimate apparel during the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in New York City. The writer closes the book at the end of the twentieth century. This industry really has come a long way.

The history of undergarments, whether cotton underwear, silk lingerie, or foundation garments with elastic straps and metal hooks, needs to be understood in relation to social and economic changes, such as the increasing rationalization of work and leisure and transformations in the shaping, conceptualization, and representation of the female body.

Per the author, an article in a 1921 trade journal used the term intimate apparel when referring to a set of undergarments. This is the earliest reference to the term that one can find.

The interpretive framework and historical understanding the writer presents draw upon a range of methodologies and disciplines, including costume and art history, literary and film criticism, and scientific analysis.

The relationship between fashion and eroticism, fetishism, seduction, modernity, and identity are all important components of the industry’s trajectory, and help lead us to an understanding of its history….

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