Girdles, corsets and bosom-binding brassieres are the topic of discussion at a Lake Villa District Library event this month, with one firm rule: No men allowed.
Ellie Carlson, an expert on historical clothing who has curated numerous museum exhibitions, likes to make sure that women "of a certain age" feel comfortable enough to talk and ask questions during the presentation, called "Unmentionables: The Rise and Fall of Ladies Underwear."
Before past events started, she evicted a rabbi and a male reporter from the room.
Carlson displays examples of the historical undergarments and describes their evolution, along with humorous asides. For instance, she notes the historical inaccuracy of Miss Kitty's costumes in the television show, "Gunsmoke." "Women in the 1880s did not have two bosoms," she says. "They had one and it went straight across."
Carlson, a "Road Scholar" for the Illinois Humanities Council, often dresses in period costume for lectures. She will speak at the Lake Villa library at 1 p.m., Jan. 20.
Already, the library has turned away at least one man who tried to register for the event, said Nina Kenney, adult program associate.
Her boss, a man, jokingly objected and told her that he may host a men-only event at the same time, she said.
"Like any man's program is going to be as good as this one," Kenney scoffed. "Boxers or briefs, it's not going to be the same draw."