Lillian Bassman: Lingerie
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Through the 1950s and the early 1960s, working with that era’s supermodels, fashion photographer Lillian Bassman created the quintessential modern feminine image of women in their lingerie. As Ginia Bellafante put it in the New York Times recently, “In place of heavyset women constraining themselves in what was essentially equipment, Ms. Bassman deployed immeasurably lithe models, conveying a world in which women seemed to linger in the pleasures of their own sensuality.” Fifty years later, these images have lost none of their allure, and the enormous cultural impact of the TV show Mad Men has given them new currency.
heads for the corner of a friend’s living room or the bathroom of her apartment.” Escaping the studio with its hackneyed repertoire of gestures and poses and distracting onlookers, she worked alone with her model in a domestic setting, preferably a room with abundant natural light; like others in her generation, she was adapting the techniques of reportage photography to her fashion and advertising work, giving it a freshness and immediacy that felt new. In the early fifties, she often used a
1955 (alternate version published in Harper’s Bazaar, October 1955) THE LINE LENGTHENS, model unknown, lingerie by Formfit, 1955 (alternate version published in Harper’s Bazaar, October 1955) POLKA DOTS, Pud, mid-1950s OLGA NICHOLS, 1956 (advertisement for Warner’s) THE LINE LENGTHENS, model unknown (alternate version published in Harper’s Bazaar, October 1955) BARBARA VAUGHN, early 1950s MARGIE CATO, 1949 MARGIE CATO, lingerie test shoot, late 1940s EVELYN MILROY, early 1950s
(advertisement for Delsey toilet paper) BETTY THREAT, 1949 SEDUZIONI D’AUTORE, Elizabeth, corset by Gossard Ultrabra, 1997 (alternate version published in Io Donna, November 1997) MERRY WIDOW, model unknown, circa 1954 (advertisement for Warner’s Merry Widow) SEDUZIONI D’AUTORE, Elizabeth, corset by Gossard Ultrabra, 1997 (Io Donna, November 1997) BIKINI, model unknown, circa 1960. Reinterpreted 2007 POLAROID GIRLS, models unknown, circa 1970. Reinterpreted 2011 SEPARATES, model unknown,
Carmen, lingerie by Warner’s, 1951 (alternate version published in Junior Bazaar, September 1951) PINK LOOKS BEAUTIFUL OVERNIGHT, unknown model, nightgown by Van Raalte, 1954 (alternate version published in Harper’s Bazaar, October 1954) Bassman working in the studio, early 1950s Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for and may be obtained from the Library of Congress. ISBN 978-1-4197-0215-0 Copyright © 2012 Lillian Bassman Published in 2012 by Abrams, an imprint of ABRAMS.
registered $12 million in sales, up from a wartime average of $4 million. The lingerie business, which had sunk under a swell of unsold corsets even before the Depression struck, and struggled through the war years, was rising on a tide of bras and girdles. For HARPER’S BAZAAR, there were new products to feature and powerful advertisers to please; the traditional visual language to accomplish this— bland illustrations and sexless photographs—was hardly up to the standards of a publication seeking