Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

Ever wonder why babies are cute, why gentlemen prefer blondes, or why the human ballsack is the size that it is? Hmmm, ok maybe not that last one, but the answers are pretty interesting.

The subject of beauty is far from only skin deep, and it strikes me how very perfect the book’s title is. Beauty isn’t just incidental, and the source of frivolous fun or petty envy. It’s deeply tied into our instincts as living things, something we share with even the flowers, and goes back virtually as far as we do. This book leaves no stone unturned, and encompasses science, sociology, and of course biology in a way that’s truly fun to read. Not only that, but Nancy Etcoff’s own personal touch is extremely compelling, and this alone makes the book worth a read. This combined with the huge amount of learning inside is likely to leave you with a whole new perspective on a subject you once held strong and long-lived opinions about.

What’s interesting here is the particular way that this information offers up new meaning to the subject of beauty. To understand how beauty has transformed us biologically and culturally into the creatures that we are, it becomes both more important and yet less important all at once. Without beauty, we simple would not be, but who we have become also gives us the power to appreciate it in the most enlightening way possible. This isn’t a book so much about sitting in front of the mirror, putting on makeup and poking at your belly as it is about humanity itself. It strikes me as extremely valuable, and it can and should be read by people of all genders and ages. This book is awesome, and as it meets both my demands of educational and entertaining, I can’t recommend it enough.

Rather just see the movie? Well, there isn’t one exactly, but you might want to check out The Human Face.

Other recommended reads:  The History of Beauty, Sex in History.

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The History Of Jazz

Obviously fashion is a major staple of this blog, but it’s by far not the only thing that interests me. That’s why I really want to write a review here for the fascinating book The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia. Put simply, it is so amazing as to be almost necessary if you have any interest in music or popular/American culture at all.
I have to admit that for the most part I was not exactly entertained, by the book itself anyway. It reads very much like something you would read in college, and while not written to be over the heads of most readers, it does contain a fair amount of admittedly beautiful description that will only be familiar to people with some knowledge of music theory, something I myself do not have. Another (good) thing that contributed to me taking SO DAMN LONG to finish it is that it’s overflowing with descriptions of amazing artists and songs that you can’t help but stop and check out on Youtube so that you can hear them for yourself. Indeed I found Youtube to be an expectedly necessary companion, because without it you just can’t grasp exactly what this book is trying to say, and it becomes dry, at times almost meaningless.
So in the end it’s not the entertainment value lying in this book that I found so valuable – indeed I would rather listen to jazz than read about it – but the incredible treasure chest of information held within. My mind was blown from the very first chapter from the amazing things I was learning, as well as all the music I had heard before but am just now getting a real appreciation for. This book is invaluable, and absolutely worth the trip, even if you personally find it a lengthy one.
Now I’d like to share with you some of my own Youtube finds of incredible jazz music, much of it thanks to this book. I also highly recommend checking out the Ken Burns Jazz series.

The Trends of Trends

We all know that styles change over the years, over the decades, and over the centuries. We get tired of certain styles and get anxious to try out new and more innovative ones all the time. But have you ever wondered WHY certain things go in and out of style? Have you ever looked to the styles of the past and saw the reasons behind them? I’ve noticed a few trends about trends, and I’m finding them very interesting.


Big shoulder pads. Of course you’re thinking about the 80s now, the “power suit” that so represents this time. This however wasn’t the first time big shoulders were in. Before that it was in the 1940s, when big shoulders were in style partially to balance out elaborate hairstyles. Sound familiar? The other reason they were in was because at that time women were entering the work force en masse because of the war, something that can also be said for the 80s version of the phenomenon, minus the war of course. On a simplistic level, you could say that whenever women start going to work in droves, large shouldered silhouettes will appear. On a deeper level, this leads us to explore how fashion becomes an expression of our desire to be seen as men’s equals in the work force.


So, feminism and women’s rights has an influence on fashion, right? Let’s look at another example. In the 1950s it was generally considered that a woman’s place was in the home. This was a time of full swing skirts and feminine details. Later, in the 1960s, the sexual revolution began, and so did the era of the mini skirt, and the end of the girdle era. Jeans became popular for more than just the most casual of situations. Unisex hairstyles appeared. While I’m tempted to say that feminism killed glamour, it’s certainly a more complex issue than that. Let me only suggest that we can have both.


The 60s and 70s saw a huge change in clothes, and in its simplest terms you could describe this as rebellion. It was rebellion from what was previously expected and even required, and part of a huge social change. That wasn’t the first time social and style revolutions happened either. Think about the regency period. Before that, in the 18th century elaborate court clothes signified wealth and rank. Women wore huge panniers, men and women alike wore Big Hair, and there was no shortage of extremes.

Once the American Revolution, and even more so the French Revolution hit, these styles became representative of a dated monarchy. To dress this way pretty much meant you thought you were better than everybody else. Now this was a time of equals, and again, of rebellion. The regency period saw a return to simple silhouettes reminiscent of ancient Greece, and the older generation complained that women were running around “in their nightgowns”.


This happened again on a smaller scale during the recent recession. Anyone seen dressed ultra glamorous and ultra expensive was seen as being insensitive to those suffering from unemployment. Celebrities in particular were a target just as the royalty of the 18th century was. The word “recessionista” came into use, and being thrifty was finally something to be proud of.


So now it’s easy to see how major social change will influence a major change in fashion, and one fashion extreme will often lead us to the other end of the spectrum. There are many more examples. 80s glam vs. early 90s grunge, the Victorian age vs. the flapper style of the 1920s, and the simplicity of the Regency period vs. the poof of the 1840s. I could go on, if I did my research.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I want to go further into explaining the styles of the 20s through the 50s in another article, but for now it’s interesting to think about the social reasons why we wear what we do. There’s certainly a lot more to do with it than simply what we think looks good at one time or another. Of course we can’t really have an opinion about what looks good without there being some sort of reason behind it. Fashion really does say a lot about who we are in the world.

Girdle Zone

Being heavily into corsets, I’ve never been particularly interested in girdles. I guess I’ve just always thought of them as a lesser kind of corset, a “corset light”, if you will. Nevertheless the thought of getting one has crossed my mind. Not everyone wants to be bound down to 20 inches at all times, but that hourglass shape is incredibly addicting nonetheless. I just don’t feel right without it.
So it was when I was browsing a message board dedicated to vintage lifestyles and clothing that I found mention of this website, Girdle Zone. I had to have a look.
This site is a lot bigger than I would ever have thought a site about girdles could be. But the fact is there is a lot to do with history, romance, politics, and our senses of self as women that’s all tied up in girdles and the way we perceive them among other notable kinds of underwear. I was immediately fascinated by all the psychology that goes into girdles, and I was pleased to see that they really do hold just as much mental power over us as corsets do.
So you may find that a girdle is a powerful and extremely pleasurable and sexy expression of your femininity, a protective exo-skeleton that grants a feeling of power, or you may feel that you associate them with a repressed pre-feminist time. Either way, you can’t look into the subject without having some sort of emotional reaction. I’ll let you decide for yourselves how you feel about these charged garments.
http://www.girdlezone.org