Showing posts from September, 2014

Corsetry and Feminism: Appendix

As mentioned in the third part of this series, there are many modern women who regularly wear corsets who have never been scientifically studied. Obsolete Victorian medical science is far too frequently cited as an objective, truthful source - but there have been a few recent studies that are also brought up to defend the idea that corsets are inherently harmful. It is my belief that these studies, however, are flawed and do not prove what they intend or what they are used to prove. A short summary of each, the valid points, and their flaws: Historic Medical Perspectives of Corseting and Two Physiologic Studies with Reenactors Colleen Gau (PhD Dissertation, 1998) This paper is obviously - as it is a dissertation - very involved. At base, though, it is an exploration of Victorian health claims against the corset and a study of corseted women performing physical tasks. The main strike against this study is that it is not impartial. From the beginning, Gau showed a predisposition

It's My Body: Corsetry and Feminism, Part Three

A Modern Health Perspective Historical views on corsetry cannot be divorced from the world their creators lived in. When dress reformers wrote about the practice of wearing corsets, they were referring to a context in which women were not sanctioned to be seen without them in public. Is it even possible to infer how they would feel about corset-wearing in a world where it is the extreme anomaly rather than the norm? This was also a context in which medical claims that we now know to be incorrect were taken seriously based on very little evidence. There is no reason to apply Victorian perspectives (feminist or not) to the practices of modern corset-wearers, since none of their experiences would have approached the modern situation. It never ceases to amaze me that critics of modern tight-lacing or moderate corseting ignore and dismiss the experiences of those modern corseters in favor of the Victorian medical claims. Regardless of the official statistics on total lung capacity and t

Fact and Fiction: Corsetry and Feminism, Part Two

Suffrage vs. Dress Reform Given that the members of the women's rights movement lived at a time when there was no scientific evidence against the intensely negative health claims, it is no wonder that they might regard the corset as a death-trap. However, early feminist opposition to the corset is vastly overstated today. To illustrate, see the fashionable photograph of Susan B. Anthony at the end of the 19th century: Susan B. Anthony, ca. 1895 Based on the smoothness of her bodice and the curve of her waist, we can say that she was clearly wearing a corset even late in her successful career. ( Other photographs of Anthony show corsetry as well, as do photographs of other proto-feminists .) The  Dress Reform  movement associated with the women's rights movement began in the 1850s, promoting the "freedom suit" or "Bloomer costume" consisting of a loose dress over full trousers, worn without a corset.  The suit  attracted ridicule from the public i

A Difficult History: Corsetry and Feminism, Part One

Recently, I began following a couple of Tumblr blogs focusing on waist training and daily corset wear. Daily wear is not for me, waist training even less so, but I find it an interesting practice. It is also a controversial one. For example, a recent Huffington Post article, " Corset Queen Penny Brown Loves Getting 'Waisted' ," drew comments which were nearly all extremely negative, as do most articles that bring the practice to mainstream attention. Usually, the mental states of the women who waist-train are called into question, and there are numerous references to feminism as incompatible with corsets. The general idea is that the first wave feminists of the late 19th and early 20th century would be horrified by women today wearing them, and that their assumed reaction is an objective statement on the practice. My feeling is that the subject is complex, and cannot be simply declared feminist or unfeminist. There are far more factors than the average internet comm