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Corset Schmorset

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  • Julia Logan Trimarco
    Compelling discussion! If anyone is interested in more info, The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Costume Institute put out a book of the show that was there
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2002
      Compelling discussion!
      If anyone is interested in more info, The Metropolitan Museum of Art/
      Costume Institute put out a book of the show that was there earlier this
      year, I think the title was something like The Body Transformed. I saw it,
      it was a very interesting show. It was organized by body part, and showed
      examples of extreme fashions from all over the world and all periods of
      history, that have exaggerated every part from the neck (that African tribe
      and Elizabethan ruffs), to the feet ( Chinese foot binding shoes).
      The interesting thing about history, is that you really can't make broad
      assumptions, because the more you dig, the more examples of "anomalies" you
      will find. I would also caution anyone against making assumptions about
      lifestyles and attitudes of earlier times. If anyone watched the 1900's
      house or the Pioneer House on PBS, you'll know what happens when modern
      people are confronted with even a few of the realities that faced our
      ancestors. I don't think we can assume that the society that surrounded the
      corset would have disapproved, across the board, of extreme fashions. There
      is a tendency in America, with our Puritan past, to assume that the further
      back you go in our history, the more prudish they were. This simply was not
      true. History is a wheel, and sometimes the times are free and frivolous,
      and sometimes they are constrained. Also, as always, city life vastly
      differs from country life.
      Another point, if you think that disfiguring fashions ended with Queen
      Victoria, take a closer look at the 20th century. The new look was all about
      a tiny waist, and though the names and materials changed, high-fashion women
      did indeed wear corsets in the 50's (hence disfigured elders still alive
      There will always be people who do crazy things for fashion. Just a few
      years ago, Japanese teens were dying and becoming injured from falling off
      their platform shoes (which bore a certain resemblance to shoes Ventian
      ladies of the night wore in the 17th century).
      For those interested in buying, making, or wearing corsets, I suggest
      getting Corsets and Crinolines, by Nora Waugh. For a shortcut to a good
      pattern, enlarge her patterns on a copier, make a mock-up, and adjust from
      there. Everyone's ribs have a little bit of spring to them, that's what
      allows you expand with breath. People vary. Some can compress a great deal
      more safely, than others. Be extra careful if you have asthma or other
      breathing problems. You can test yourself for spring by placing your hands
      at the sides of your ribs (or someone else can do this for you) and gently
      pushing in. I found I was able to compress myself quite a bit.
      Corsets come in all shapes and sizes and have a long history. Each period
      style was designed to give a specific shape and emphasize a certain part of
      the torso. Choose one that highlights your own individual assets. Get to
      know your body VERY WELL, and pay attention when it tells you to stop doing
      something! I've felt my breathing restricted just from wearing two sports
      bras, so a corset can do alot. I suggest making your own, if you have the
      time and interest. $150 for a custom made corset is VERY reasonable. The
      breast is the hardest part of the body to fit, and takes quite a bit of
      expertise, so a good seamstress deserves pretty much whatever price they
      ask. Don't let that daunt you from making your own, though. It's a long-term
      project, but a fun one (as long a you stay the same size and don't make
      things difficult for yourself!).

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