The Thinking 

Corsets and Curtains

August 2, 2010


GAIL AGGEN writes:

I read Lillibeth’s post about the Victorians, and their dreadful habit of dying all the time, last night. I got several good laughs out of that.

My nineteenth century grandmother was as big around as a barrel, always wore a full corset, and could outwork anybody in about a third of the time, with the power and determination of a Panzer tank. She inspired confidence and, in young folks, dread, everywhere she went. You simply did not get in her way, nor did you get within five feet of her window treatments, which were changed seasonally and starched into utterly stiff perfection. I could go on and on about her, and probably should on my own blog, but truly, I have never seen anyone like her in terms of her physical strength, native intelligence, and absolute mastery of the domestic sphere.

Not only did her corset not hamper her, but she and other ladies of that era vowed that the support lent by these rigorous foundation garments enabled them to work like anything, due to their backs and internal organs being held up and into place, with perfect posture then being assured.

Laura writes:

The abandonment of the corset and its connection to femininity and domesticity is a subject that should be explored at further length. The corset, by some mysterious physiological processes, may have increased energy, domestic proficiency and intelligence.

There are some subjects which only the most courageous defenders of civilization have the nerve to explore. This is one of them.

                                  — Comments —

Vanessa writes:

Corsets get a bad name today, but I sometimes wonder if the people complaining have ever actually worn a quality-crafted, well-fitting corset. They’re quite comfortable, really. I wore one under my wedding gown, and I didn’t notice it after about five minutes. I still sometimes wear it under strapless evening gowns, or ones with very narrow straps, because I’m quite busty and strapless bras are always slipping down. I think a lot of modern women could benefit from that tip, as I see them constantly tugging at the tops of their bras in public, which looks quite silly and is very distracting to the men around them.

In fact, I’d say that I find wearing a corset more comfortable than wearing a bra, because the pressure and the weight are more spread-out. Also, I just think it looks nice, and I’m a bit romantic that way. I can imagine that corsets could be beneficial for someone with back problems, as well. I have noticed the following benefits when wearing a corset: I sit up straighter, I move and sit more elegantly, I don’t have bra straps digging into my shoulders or an underwire digging into my rib cage, and I don’t overeat. Just don’t lace it so tight as to constrict your breathing, or basic movement.

Or was that all too much information concerning my undergarments?

Laura writes:

Not too much at all. These are very important insights. :- )

I imagine corsets give a woman backbone, a sense of being stronger than she is, which probably explains, in part, Gail’s grandmother and her air of firm control. 

Drina writes:

Interesting points! I had never heard of modern women actually wearing corsets. Questions for Vanessa, or anyone who might know: Where does one find them? And are they worn only under evening gowns, or could they be worn under any dress any time?

Vanessa writes:

Actually, they’re coming back into style. But mostly as outerwear. I have a black pinstripe one that I wear over a white button-down shirt, with a long black skirt. It looks very elegant. I’ve also seen satin corsets with pants, or brocade corsets worn with jeans. I think it’s difficult to pull off without looking “slutty”, though.

I wear mine as undergarments whenever I want to. I bought it on the internet at a women’s lingerie store. But you can get them (and bustiers, which are similar) at Nordstroms, or most other large department or lingerie stores. It looks nice under a fitted sundress, for instance. It’s especially useful if the dress has a wide neck or spaghetti straps.

There are many types of corsets, using different materials. The traditional ones used metal or bone and hook-closures (which takes forever to put on), but the more modern ones use plastic and have laces in the back and a zipper in the front. Some are just made of stiff elastic material, with a zipper.

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