I just laced my roommate into a corset so we could see the costume she’s wearing for a scene for one of her classes, and all I have to say is compliments to the dressers and maids who had to dress their ladies every morning. It’s difficult. My hands hurt and are super red. I think the dressers wore gloves back then. They must have. That or they had extremely calloused forefingers. Something else I learned? This will come in real handy once time travel’s invented: Don’t piss off your dresser. They have your well-being in their hands every single morning. As I was tightening the laces on my way down I recognized it as a great way to release aggression, especially if you’re feeling it towards the person you’re strapping in. I’m sure some maids found satisfaction in that – making sure their b**** of a mistress couldn’t breathe. You can tell I’m the daughter of a seamstress – once I got the hang of what I was doing I quite enjoyed lacing her into the corset and helping her step into her petticoats and skirts. But I would get tired of being the dresser. I would want to wear the lovely things. My roommate and I would both have said, “Lace it tight until it hurts.” Would give us an excuse to daintily use those fainting couches when we swoon 😉 Didn’t hurt the posture either. At the same time it makes me cringe. I also don’t like hearing about waist training (and other things not related to corsets but having the same idea of changing your body). Constricting your body until it’s forced to do what you want. One of my teachers once told me the desired waist back then was 18”. Yup. I have a 26” waist and I can’t imagine being any smaller. That’s a bit terrifying.

Of course now I’m looking into the history of the corset and it was introduced by Catherine de Medici into France in the 1500s, and at that time women’s skirts were held out in a stiff cone. The corset would have given a matching yet inverted shape on top. Also, it may not have been admired so much for the small waist as it was for how the flattened bust pushed the breasts up so they peeked over the top of the corset. Either way, they were used to change the feminine (and sometimes male) image, to be viewed in a socially acceptable and appetizing way. I think of She’s the Man: “Heels are a man’s invention to make a woman’s butt look smaller! …And to make it harder for them to run away.” Really though, who did first introduce the idea of the corset? Catherine may have made it popular, but who first created it, and how long ago, before it reached France’s fashion line? Hmmm…

I do love the Victorian period, when corsets were at their height of popularity, and would definitely have enjoyed it from time to time, but I’m always troubled hearing when both female and male friends of mine aren’t satisfied with their bodies. There’s always been a desired physical image – sure it changes over time, but it makes me sad that it’s a problem at all. I could go on, but that takes me into something that should have a blog posting of its own – but I will someday return to this topic. I also wonder what negative effects (other than constantly passing out) corsets had on women and their bodies. Hmm. Something to ponder 🙂 I’ll be satisfied with using them simply for my costume purposes. This whole ordeal makes me want to go to Savers – find cheap finds for my costume box.

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