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We Recommend

Andrea Johnson, Corset Designer

Andrea Johnson has a background in fine art and fashion, and has been making corsets and fetish related apparel since the early 90s. Her work has appeared in a variety of fashion and fetish publications including i-D, Skin Two, Marquis, Zink, Italian Vogue and Numero. When she is not voraciously consuming books from the library, she may be found dealing with the local population of stray cats as a volunteer with Toronto Cat Rescue and other rescue groups.

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Steele, Valerie.
This is probably the most intelligent and factual book about corsets out there. Steele is an interested and interesting fashion historian. The photographs are beautiful, and trace the development of the corset from the 17th century to the contemporary garment. The text is also very insightful, and many times smarter than the average dreck that appears in a book of beautiful fashion oriented photographs. A must for anyone researching period costume, fashion history, or the reinvention of the corset as a fetish garment.
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Steele, Valerie.
Steele's book Fetish also has an excellent corset chapter. It is a compelling read on the subject of fetishism and how fashion periodically dabbles in these waters.
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Lynn, Eleri.
Like all Victoria and Albert Museum costume books, this title has detailed photographs of lingerie, with a flat drawing and description of the garment. This book is a must for clothing historians and costumers, or anyone who appreciates fashion. There are no pin-up type photos of sexy ladies wearing the lingerie however.
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Garments were shot on posed mannequins with amazing paper wigs. This documentation is a testament to the creativity and vision of the museum and photographer. An exceptional reference book for fashion and history lovers, but also as inspiration for product photographers.
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Galembo, Phyllis.
Galembo travelled to several countries in Africa, and Haiti to photograph masked costumes for ritual and carnival purposes. The photographs of the wearers are simple but brilliant - but so are the costumes! Some are elaborate, some are simplistic, many are socially and psychologically disturbing. Some are made from plant materials, others are unpainted cardboard, others are sort of a crochet. Some look like they have been used by several generations - others won't last the night. If you are a fan of Nick Cave (the artist, not the singer) then this book illustrates strong parallels between his sound-suits and these costumes. This innovative approach to costume challenged all my uptight perfectionist anxieties - and I really appreciated that.
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The Cockettes were a haphazard performance troupe of the queerest people ever - men, women, even a baby. Gay, straight, bi, trans, undeclared! Outcasts from everywhere met in late 60s San Francisco. This group created aesthetic, gender and performance anarchy. There were drugs, scandals, costumes, glitter and make-up. REALLY a lot of make-up. They were naughty, subversive and politically incorrect but also sharp witted and funny. A very enjoyable film.
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Tent, Pam.
Tent (aka sweet Pam) tells a slightly different account of the events. Pam definitely kept well detailed diaries, as with all that chaos going on there is no way that she could recall so much. Her story is compelling and funny. The contrast between the documentary and her autobiography is interesting. There are differences but no real conflicts. If you loved the film, then you should read the book. Or vice versa.
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Arbus, Diane, 1923-1971.
Arbus' groundbreaking photographs of American culture from the late 1950s onward are unsettling, confrontational, beautiful and ugly. Arbus was unafraid to create an intimate rapport with her subjects -- insiders and outsiders. Was she their equal or an exploitative intruder? Her photographs continue to look fresh and remain unsettling. This is art.
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X -- The Unheard Music is part fiction, part documentary. X was a band from Los Angeles that formed in the mid 70s. More literate than many of the bands from that time/place, X had a particular sensibility and style. This film is an important document of the group -- but also for that time/place/scene. They were punk/not punk, but also rockabilly, art and poetry thrown in a blender. An unconventional film I could watch over and over for the music and style alone.
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Brassaï, 1899-1984.
Brassai's photographs of the seamy underworld from the early 1930s are beautiful, but hit even harder with his written context. Sewer cleaners, circus performers, criminals, prostitutes, drag balls, tearooms, brothels, art students, an opium den (is that Man Ray?!), butch/femme lesbians, topless showgirls and other night people are all documented in black and white, which makes everything appear simultaneously more fashionable but filthy at the same time. An excellent photo companion for those reading any Jean Genet. Spectacular!
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Rechy, John.
City of Night is sort of a queer On The Road. Originally published in 1963, it is Rechy's best work. The narrator leaves his small Texas town to criss cross America, to work as a prostitute keeping intimacy and attachments at bay. He drifts through gay subcultures and meets many anguished not-straight men as his clients, as well as other hustlers, drag queens, runaways and the undecided. His writing style is descriptive, vivid, speeding, urgent. From what I read of Rechy's personal history, I suspect much of this may be autobiography. A profound and emotional work. This is the underside of the American experience of the late 1950s.
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Larrain, Gilles.
The beauty and power of these photographic subjects shine fiercely. The most compelling photos are from the early 70s, featuring a few members of the Cockettes, drag icon Alexis Del Lago and other self-made fashion/culture/gender outlaw superstars, all working their look and personas to the fullest.
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Weinberger, Karlheinz, 1921-
What a book! Weinberger was a closeted gay factory worker in Switzerland who took photographs as a hobby, starting in the early 60s. Lucky for him there was a unique youth subculture of rock and roll obsessed boys (and a few girls) who embellished their tight jeans with extraordinary fashion accessories like giant homemade belt buckles, chains, scraps of fur, text, discarded horseshoes and bullet casings, and things like giant bolts through the fly of their jeans. These kids were punk before there was punk! He photographed these teens, with a particular homo-erotic emphasis on male beauty. These photographs were discovered a few years before his death in obscurity. I am so grateful to whoever recognized the art and style in his work, to share it with the world before it was lost forever.