Sentient humans with brains as well as bodies have always been fascinated by the way we adorn ourselves and why. Once we can get past the cultural anthropology of fashion, and the fads that make it a billion-dollar world industry, we can dig down to discover the roots of historical and current adorned beauty, and EXTREME BEAUTY does this . . . beautifully.
It is pleasing--in an era in which physical beauty and adornment typified by fashion have been roundly rejected by most of the jeans-wearing public--to find a book that lets beauty out and helps us exercise our sense of mystery and wonder, based in no small part on human sexuality and attraction. Harold Koda (curator of the Costume Institute at New York's Met) has mounted a show and created a book with marvelous insights and passion, and the illustrations are wondrous--consider, as a case in point, Thiery Mugler's 'Chimere,' with its savage eroticism.
One could quibble with Koda's arbitrary division of the body into 'neck and shoulders,' 'chest,' 'waist,' 'hips' and 'feet,'
and his exclusion of the fascinating face/head/hair perplex, and the hands, with their magical touch and allure. But this book and its illustrations will become a benchmark by which human adornment is judged, and is a keeper of power and importance.
Harold Koda's Extreme Beauty surveys concepts of fashion and beauty. Koda considers the evolving, changing strategies of beauty around the world, focussing on different body parts and how they are accented and displayed through varying uses of clothing and cultural perception. Black and white and color photos of unusual fashion choices and styles make for some eye-opening insights.