Reducing Bodies: Mass Culture and the Female Figure in Postwar America explores the ways in which women in the years following World War II refashioned their bodies—through reducing diets, exercise, and plastic surgery—and asks what insights these changing beauty standards can offer into gender dynamics in postwar America. Drawing on novel and untapped sources, including insurance industry records, this engaging study considers questions of gender, health, and race and provides historical context for the emergence of fat studies and contemporary conversations of the "obesity epidemic."


chapter |12 pages


Ideal Bodies

chapter 1|19 pages

Creating a Cultural Ideal

The Fashion Industry and Hollywood

chapter 2|26 pages

“We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust”

Uplifting the Feminine Breast

chapter 3|18 pages

“The Longer the Belt Line, the Shorter the Life Line”

Insurance Companies and the Medical Community Weigh In

chapter 4|15 pages

Re-Shaping America

The Reducing Neurosis

chapter 5|17 pages

What Men Want

Men’s Magazines and the Girl-Next-Door

chapter 6|21 pages

(Big and) Black Is Beautiful

Body Image and Expanded Beauty Ideals

chapter 7|17 pages

Not over ’Til the Fat Lady Sings

Fighting Fat Stigma

chapter 8|7 pages

Barbie Gets a New Body

chapter |19 pages