Three women wearing corsets

How Colonialism Shaped Body Shaming

When did heaviness and curviness in women become connected with the idea of "savagery"? It has a lot to do with 19th-century imperialist world views.
“Colors That Never Run,” W1, Undated.

Ed Hardy Changed Tattooing Forever

Trained as a printmaker, this artist helped change American tattooing from a fringe behavior into an art form people use to express themselves.
Empress Joséphine holding a Jacquemus Mini Le Chiquito handbag

A Mini History of the Tiny Purse

The purse has always been political, a reflection of changing economic realities and gender roles.
Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger

The Codpiece and the Pox

A brief history of the codpiece, that mysterious garment favored by 16th-century gents who just may have been covering up their cases of syphilis.
A contraption used to extract the silk from a spider

The Tangled History of Weaving with Spider Silk

Spider silk is as strong as steel and as light as a feather, but attempts to industrialize its production have gotten stuck, so to speak.
"The Macaroni. A real Character at the late Masquerade", mezzotint by Philip Dawe, 1773

The Gender-Bending Style of Yankee Doodle’s Macaroni

The outlandish "macaroni" style of 18th-century England blurred the boundaries of gender, as well as class and nationality.
Victorian gloves

What Gloves Meant to the Victorians

According to one historian, the year 1900 was “the zenith of glove-wearing,” when any self-respecting Victorian (British or American) wouldn’t be caught dead without covered hands.
Sari drape

Why Saris are Indian Material Culture

Between 1996 and 2003, a folklorist studied the connection between handlooms (technology), sari makers (producers), and sari wearers (consumers) in the ancient city of Banaras.
Michelle Obama portrait

What Amy Sherald Tells Us with Michelle Obama’s Dress

How do the artistic inspirations that portrait artist Amy Sherald cites for Michelle Obama’s dress impact our visual and cultural understanding of the portrait for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery?
18th century hoop skirt

Why Hoop Petticoats Were Scandalous

In the 18th century a new trend in women's underwear sparked public scandal: the hoop petticoat. How the world became obsessed with what was under women’s skirts.