Happy Monday! Which means...

Time for Corset Myths Monday!

This week: The purpose of a corset, historically, was to reduce waist size.
The truth? Not really. Though SOME eras of corsetry MAY reduce waist size SOMEWHAT, it's not the main goal of the garment.
This myth--and the accompanying emphasis in fictional representations of corsets on the waist reduction--probably gets it start from a few places. One, we do have lots of cultural touchstones of tiny corseted waists (Scarlett and Gone with the Wind anyone?)
Two, modern waist training is focused more on waist reduction, and is many people's introduction to corsetry. But like many things, what we modern people do and what historical people did are not the same thing.
Three, the eras of corsets people are more familiar with--the Victorian hourglass shape--is a shape focused on a larger waist-to-hip ratio than other eras, and does reduce waist size to some degree. HOWEVER: A lot of that is optical illusion.
Let's dig in a little more (which, by the way, is something your corset should NEVER do).

The REAL purposes of corsets historically are
1) Provide support for the bust and back (it's typically your bra, folks) and a supportive base for sometimes heavy clothing.
2) Provide a "fashionable" shape for clothing.

Historical clothing is BUILT ON the corset shape. (This is why you will quickly be directed to make your corset first if you get into historical costuming!)
But fashionable changes from era to era! These late 18th century stays provide a flat front, a smooth line from underarm to hip, and a roughly conical shape. They are unlikely to change waist size much: collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O13864/st…
(In fact, some folks I know have a larger waist size when wearing stays in this style!)
Or these, 1790-1800. The emphasis has moved away from a conical figure and toward boosting the bust. Notice that these don't even bother to cover the waistline! collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O138889/s…
This 1830s corset is going to give support to the bust and slight smoothing of the torso. The waist may be slightly reduced, but check out the kind of tube-shape--these aren't going to nip in overmuch. collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O355220/c…
But wait--the mid 19th century arrives with the hourglass shape in full force! Keep this in mind--the bust and hip are both flared outward to encourage that shape, not just waist-nipping. collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O15546/co…
And then--woah! The late Edwardian era emphasizes a completely different shape, a long smooth hip line. collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1307107/…
So you can see how the shapes of each era may or may not work to reduce waist size at all.

Even in eras when an hourglass figure was en vogue, much of the shaping is NOT waist reduction, but optical illusion.
Beyond the element of the corset shape itself, where a boosted bust and "hip spring" that emphasizes that waist-to-hip ratio plays out, some eras take to even sneakier tactics.
Corsets are only ONE piece of a lady's underpinning arsenal. Don't forget the skirt supports! For example, a cage hoop in the mid 19th century or a false rump in the late 18th both fool the eye into imagining a larger waist-to-hip ratio.
And then there's sneaking that optical illusion into the corseted figure itself. For instance, one of the most exaggerated waistlines comes from the early Edwardian "S-Bend" corset. Actress Camille Clifford and her famous figure:
SURELY that's the result of some serious waist reduction, right?

Well...I'm not in on Ms. Clifford's secrets. But I am in on this: Plenty of ladies in this period used padding. LOTS of it, frequently under the hips and the bust of the corset.
For an illustration, check out this "before and after" comparison: thepeacockdress.com/2015/02/the-ed…
Without padding, the waistline looks relatively natural. With extra padding under the hips--LOTS of padding--you get the effect of a teeny-tiny waist. But it's the same woman, and the same waist.
And the effect of bust padding illustrated here: wearinghistoryblog.com/2014/03/finish…
So! Was the purpose of a corset to reduce waist size? Not really--when it happened, it was a side effect in an overall fashionable figure that probably included a large hip-to-waist ratio AND was part of an equation resulting in more optical illusion than body modification.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Rowenna Miller 🧵TORN FRAY RULE🧵 on quasi-hiatus

Rowenna Miller 🧵TORN FRAY RULE🧵 on quasi-hiatus Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @RowennaM

3 Apr 20
So, I'm still seeing stuff circulating about how fabric masks are "useless" even as the CDC recommends more widespread mask usage and some local governments require it.

Friends--homemeade masks can help prevent the spread of disease BUT YOU HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT.
This is important because med-grade masks SHOULD be reserved for those folks on the front line who need them the most.

Let me repeat that--when I say "wear a mask" I am NOT saying "wear a med-grade mask or N95 respirator that a nurse needs more than you."
That's out of the way. OK.

Hard truth, no homemade mask of non-med grade materials will filter as well as an N95. But we shouldn't let perfect be the enemy of good--condoms aren't 100% effective but we certainly recommend wearing them, right?
Read 27 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!