Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Everything You Know About Corsets is False"

I just found this fashion history article via Tumblr, by Lisa Hix on Collectors Weekly.  In it, she interviews Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT, on the subject of the corset.  The main points: women did not tight-lace down to thirteen inch waists, corsets did not permanently deform the body and cause life-threatening conditions, and men did not force women to wear corsets (though she does acknowledge that part of the reason for wearing corsets was to appeal to men).

I only had a few issues with the article:

For a brief time, from 1800 to 1830, the Napoleonic high “empire waist” look freed bellies from the confines of waist-constricting stays, as corsets became smaller and closer to modern-day bras.
 The era of the short corset was very short itself, from about 1795 to 1805.  By 1810, as dresses slimmed down, women were wearing long corsets again.
A corsetier with an M.D., Inès Gaches-Sarraute, came up with the straight-front corset—also known as the “swan-bill,” “S-line,” or “S-bend” corsets—which he believed kept the pressure off a woman’s stomach. But these corsets forced women to tilt awkwardly, hips back, breasts forward, and created an exaggerated S-shape in the back.
Gaches-Sarraute was a woman, not a man.  It's not a huge mistake, but in my opinion, it changes the tone.

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