Historical Collections & Services, UVA Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
Doctors scolded. Mothers ignored them and urged their young daughters to adopt the latest fashions. Companies advertised their enticing products, promising beauty. Young men approved.
What was all the fuss about 100 years ago? Corsets and footbinding.
The online exhibit “Reshaping the Body: Clothing & Culture” from the University of Virginia’s Claude Moore Health Science Library explores these examples of body modification in two widely different cultures.


Today corsets are worn only for “dress up” and entertainment, and they are far from the rigid, restrictive armor of previous centuries. And foot binding to produce feet that would fit into 4-inch-long shoes survives only in a few elderly women.
All societies now and in the past have practiced body modification for cultural reasons—tattooing, ritual scarring, piercing, neck stretching, dying hair, painting skin, binding feet, skulls, and torsos, and genital modification, including circumcision of men and women.
Joan Echtenkamp Klein
Alvin V. & Nancy Baird Curator
for Historical Collections