Jul 22, 2019

Women without restraint

Jill Fields, Ph.D., knows her undergarments.

More specifically, she gives her historical and sociological take on women’s intimate apparel.

Author of the recently published “An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality,” Fields hoped to provoke readers with the history behind an often-overlooked everyday necessity, lingerie.

With an eyebrow-raising title, the book garnered positive feedback for its take on the evolving history of women over the decades.

The Washington Post called it “a rich and nuanced understanding” about how clothes can change the “historical context of women’s lives just as much as they shape the actual contours of women’s bodies.”

Though Fields isn’t the first to write about how women view themselves, her book sets out to define the historical significance of the clothing women wear underneath it all every day.
“ [I provided] information of a lesser known topic to bring about new ways of thinking,” Fields said.

Fields, an associate history professor at California State University, Fresno, specializing in modern U.S. and Women’s History, has spent the past few years researching and writing her book.

She started her research as a graduate student at the University of Southern California, using glamour as her dissertation topic and thesis for her doctorate.

Though she loved every minute of her research, the writing portion sometimes proved difficult.

“Graduate students use big words and I tried weeding them out,” Fields said, expressing her desire to captivate as many readers as possible.

As she became further engrossed in the topic, she developed a sense of just how important every aspect of lingerie history is, even the topics that seemed mundane at first.

In her process of writing a historical view of glamour, she decided to focus on intimate apparel. To Fields it was the quest to present this most interesting subject.

“Fashion is important, along with why women dress the way they do,” Fields said, explaining that the relationship between one’s body and how their clothing shapes their identity.

To fully capture moments in history, Fields knew that illustrations would be crucial to draw readers in. Illustrations included in the book include advertisements for bras during influential movements in American history, including the civil rights movement. For example, one advertisement made a reference to all women being “made” equal thanks to a Maidenform bra.

Other inserts include pictures of restricting corsets, women who defined a moment in time and still photos of popular movie scenes. But coming to these selections was no small task.
“I had over 400 slides and only chose 75 for the book,” Fields said.

Since the completion and publication of “An Intimate Affair,” Fields is working on editing a volume on feminist art in Fresno and researching her second book on the Jewish female body in U.S. pop culture.

Field’s main goal in all of her works is to change “the ideas of femininity expressed through the body.”

Who: Jill Fields, Ph.D., author of “An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie and Sexuality”

What: Book signing

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble near River Park

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