Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Friday, 21 October 2005

The art of wearing the corset

The corset, especially in the nineteenth century, was symbol of purity, virginity and *inaccessibility* (see “mini-history of the corset” below). However, as stated in Valerie Steele's book^, the practise of tighten the corset used to encourage fetish fantasies for small waists. Small waists and the corset played about the same role as the Wonder bra today. There are people who think that the concept of wearing a corset is barbaric and emblematical of centuries of feminine repression. It is in fact the best piece for the wide-spread market of sex. In alternative, it is commonly used for brides. But at the London Fashion Week, this historical item has been re-launched in a modernised version as a garment to be over-worn and shown (see FashionCapital and FashionUnited). It has been adapted to our current times at its best: retaining its own elegance and femininity like in the older age, but being pruned of the vulgar elements characterising most of the commercial corsets (see for example La Petite Salope collection). It may still arouse unspoken fantasies amongst the opposite sex, but in a more subtle way, and hopefully by arousing eroticism in its etymological meaning (in Greek ‘erotikos’ from ‘eros’ ‘erotos’= sexual love). Finally, the best use ever! ^ Valerie Steele, Fashion and Eroticism, Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age, Oxford University Press, 1985. MINI-HISTORY OF THE CORSET In the 1830's, the corset was thought of as a medical necessity. It was believed that a woman was very fragile, and needed assistance from some form of stay to hold her up. Even girls as young as three or four, and probably directed by the best motives, were laced up into bodices. Gradually these garments were lengthened and tightened. By the time they were teenagers, the girls were unable to sit or stand for any length of time without the aid of a heavy canvas corset reinforced with whale bone or steel. The corset deformed the internal organs making it impossible to draw deep breath, in or out of a corset. Because of this, Victorian women were always fainting and getting the vapors. Women were thought of as the weaker sex, therefore their minds and bodies were weak. So the corset was deemed morally and medically necessary. Tight lacing was considered virtuous --a loose corset was probably a sign of a loose woman. To keep her innocence and virtuosity, a lady had to be chaperoned everywhere she went. She could not read or see any plays lest it excite her imagination. Even Shakespeare was thought unsuitable for ladies. A woman needed to protect herself from lustful men (and her own morality) by wearing heavily reinforced layers of clothing and tight corsets that made getting undressed a long and difficult task. Working-class women (except when dressed for special occasions) did not go through the discomfort of wearing tightly laced corsets. They wore looser corsets and simpler clothes, with less weight. The higher up in class a lady was, the more confining her clothes were. This was because they didn't need the freedom to do household chores. Paid servants took care of such cumbersome matters. ©


carrie_lofty said...

Unless I'm nursing a child, I don't have enough on top to fill out the boning that makes up the rigid structure of an average corset. Gaps open - not good. But I've always thought they were the height of forbidden sexual clothing, and I wish I could wear them more successfully :/

Mircalla said...

This company ( makes self-tailored corsets. ;o )

Anyway, I do not think that corsets suit full breasts either.

carrie_lofty said...

Keven would probably disagree with you there :)