Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fun with Research: Corsets

Since the title of my historical mystery series is Canvas & Corset, naturally the undergarment makes an appearance. In 1894, the book's time period, respectable women were required to wear one or be considered scandalously under-dressed.

I grew up in a time when bras and even panties were optional so I confess fascination with old-fashioned undergarments and relief that I don't have to wear them. It amazes me that women used to hike mountains wearing long dresses, petticoats, and corsets. Wow.

Anyway, I was recently writing a scene where one of my characters gets dressed. I had to look up the procedure, how someone tightened a corset themselves. After all, most women didn't have personal maids. I found videos demonstrating this and along the way, learned women are using corsets to define their waists.

Check out Orchard Corset--they sell beautiful undergarments and also have a number of devotees who swear by "waist-training" to reduce their midsections. Apparently wearing a corset is also good for your posture. No slouching with steel digging into your ribs!

The corset is also a metaphor for propriety--think about the word straitlaced. According to dictionary.com, the word originates from about 1450 and has two meanings: wearing tightly laced clothes and puritanical. Apparently high morals are verified by proper posture.

An interesting twist is that corsets have come to be regarded as sexy--the opposite of puritanical. Perhaps even more amazing is that women are voluntarily submitting to wearing them.