From Silk to Silicone: Considering Bras, Breasts, and Cosmetic Surgery
In the twenty-first century, the distinction between dress and body is increasingly becoming more indistinguishable. A thorough analysis of the relationship between dress and cosmetic surgery is vital to the field of fashion studies. In western histories of dress, considerations of cosmetic surgery are typically found as a concluding chapter, presented to the reader as a commodity of post modernity and the future of body shaping. This thesis is an analysis of cosmetic surgery through the perspective of fashion studies in which I ask: what is the relationship between temporarily shaping the body through clothing and permanently shaping the body through cosmetic surgery? If bodies undergo cosmetic surgery procedures as a response to the experience of wearing fashionable clothing, can cosmetic surgery then be understood as a permanent form of dress?
Focusing solely on cosmetic procedures of breasts for this case study, I explore how the experience of dressing through bras and clothing can anticipate the decision to undergo a breast reduction or breast augmentation procedure. My analysis includes interviews with three women, currently in their twenties, who underwent either a breast reduction or breast augmentation operation when they were between the ages of sixteen to twenty years of age. Through these interviews, I situate clothing as an agent of influence on an individual’s perception of her own body. In doing so, I argue that cosmetic surgery creates bodies that mirror the practices of dress. This thesis aims to demonstrate how our second skins, our undergarments and our clothing, are instrumental in fashioning our primary skin, our bodies.