Beauty and Business

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Beauty seems simple; we know it when we see it. But of course our ideas about what is attractive are influenced by a broad range of social and economic factors, and in Beauty and Business leading historians set out to provide this important cultural context. How have retailers shaped popular consciousness about beauty? And how, in turn, have cultural assumptions influenced the commodification of beauty? The contributors here look to particular examples in order to address these questions, turning their attention to topics ranging from the social role of the African American hair salon, and the sexual dynamics of bathing suits and shirtcollars, to the deeper meanings of corsets and what the Avon lady tells us about changing American values. As a whole, these essays force us to reckon with the ways that beauty has been made, bought, and sold in modern America.