While visual and conceptual dichotomies are clearly present in the relationship between the undergarments and armor (male/female, hard/soft, outside/inside, armed/disarmed), no one simple reading is possible. A bustle is an industrial contraption, while a breastplate is delicately adorned. In the 14th century the term corset was used to refer to a breastplate as worn by a soldier. And though one might expect the feminine undergarments to be alluring, they often appear clinical, even dingy, divorced from the body’s lingering presence. On the other hand the armor often conveys an aggressive sexuality, both gorgeous and cruel. Yet in both cases the garments are transformative. The undergarments enhancing and constricting the body to support the fashion of the outer dress; the armor shielding the body’s mortal flesh, while concurrently turning its wearer into a terrifying war machine.
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