Corsets. How about corsets?

Corsets.

I’m a fan.

I’m not, however, a fan of the line in Pirates of the Caribbean where Elizabeth Swan makes some crack about “try wearing a corset.” Yes, corsetry was taken to the extreme in the turn of the 20th Century, with ridiculous wasp waists or S shaped figures (thank God that didn’t last long).

The corset, however, is a crucial structural underpinning for the Victorian Lady (and, to a lesser extent, the fashionable man. But that’s another blog post entirely). It’s the bra of the 1860s. In an era before ready made women’s clothing, a woman has to make all her own dresses. And, look, I’m a 21st century gal wearing standardized sized jeans and they never fit the same way every time I wear them.

A corset solves that problem. You will know exactly how your dress will fit every time you wear it. You will know exactly what measurements a new dress should be cut to. No guess work. And as my dad the non-carpenter would say, “It’s measure twice, cut once. Not measure once, cut once, and go to the store.”

Not to mention, you get the highly sought after, exaggerated hourglass figure. Allow me to present Exhibit A, taken last year at Gettysburg:

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Narrow in the waist. Flows out in the hoop and squared cut of bodice. And, regrettably flat chested. Blame not the corset. There’s no fixing that mess. Trust me, I’ve even stuffed my corset with nursing pads and I still have the chest of a 12 year old boy. Motherhood.

But I digress.

I’ve worn my corset for upwards of 10-12 hours while at events and I’ll tell you what. It’s most uncomfortable when it’s laced too loose. It makes my ribs ache and it slides down. Ugh. Awful.

Nope, I say lace me up.

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My corset was custom made by Kay Gnagey. If you’re in the market for an exceptionally made corset, click here. I can attest to the quality! I’ve had mine since 2004 and the only reason it doesn’t fit as well as it did is because I lost like, 30 pounds.

Corsets make numerous appearances in my novel, namely when Elizabeth changes her clothes. Which happens a lot. And then there’s The Scene of Awkwardness. A corset may make a brief cameo. Or two.

Yay corsets! Seriously, they are the solution to my impending bridesmaid-hood. Too much cheesecake? That’s okay. I’ll just wear my corset.

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9 thoughts on “Corsets. How about corsets?

  1. Huzzah! I feel the same way about corsets. In college, I took a “Survey of Historic Costume” class, where the professor dispelled the myths of the perpetually rib-crushing corset. Now, as an amateur seamstress and avid cosplayer (pretty much I’ll dress up for anything: Ren faires, conventions, Halloween…) I have made and worn two of them. They’re incredibly comfortable.

    Oddly, I find them most comfortable when sitting on the floor. Rather than having to lean on my arms to support my inadequate core muscles, the corset just holds me up.

    Plus, my husband canNOT take his eyes off me when I’m wearing one…

    Again I say, huzzah for corsets!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I totally agree. I bought a short corset at RenFest one year and it’s actually one I can wear out and about. I saw a green Steampunk corset–and it was only 80 bucks–that I absolutely fell in love with. I think the theme was clockwork nature or something like that, and it had ivy embroidered on it. Loved it! But responsibility won out and I had to pay the electric bill or something like that, lol.

      The movie Titanic used to frustrate me (well, for more than what I’m about to say, but corset related) when Rose’s mother is lacing her into the corset and Rose is flinching. When I was younger, I used to think wow, corsetry was painful! But as I got older, I’m assuming the point of that scene was that her mother was in control: tight hand on Rose’s life, tight lacing of the corset. On a side note, Edwardian corsets are amazing–now that’s a style I would love to try out!

  2. I love corsets too, though I’ll admit it’s mostly for aesthetic purposes—I have probably never owned a high-quality enough one to appreciate the kinds of things you and Elia (in her comment) mention about comfort. I do feel they tend to support good posture, though, and I appreciate that.

    Regardless, because I find them gorgeous, I have long hailed them as one of my favorite items of clothing. 🙂

    1. I have managed to find a way to slouch, even in a corset! You know it’s been a rough day of living history when you just don’t even care about posture, lol.

      I had looked into Steampunk corsets for more “everyday” wear, instead of my long corset. There are some gorgeous ones out there! I think there’s something sophisticated about corsetry; something that’s unforunately burdened the Hollywood image of people being laced in so tight they pass out. That’s usually the reaction I get at living history events, ie “A corset? Can you breathe?”

      Some fashion trends need to stay in the past, but I’m all for bringing the corset back when I can! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I recently read a book by Sarah Crisman, a local Seattle writer who dresses in Victorian fashion as a lifestyle choice. She wears her corset 24/7, and had some interesting and insightful things to say about the effect it has had on her body and her attitude, as well as debunking myths around the corset. The books title is Waisted Curves: My Transformation Into a Victorian Lady. It’s worth checking out. Thanks…

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