About corsets.

This is tiresome.

It is tiresome because the article takes the statement:

“Now women are buying corsets to express their individuality”

and contrasts it with some – yanno – FACTS:

“Ebay has reported a 185% rise in the number of corsets being sold over the last three months, with 1,900 listed over the period.”

and

“Marks & Spencer says it sells one item from its new corset-inspired Waist Sculpt lingerie line every three minutes.”

Production-line individuality, eh?

Restrictive empowerment?

Ambassador, weez zeez doublespeak, you are really spoiling uzz!

Oh, you WOMMENZ, with your topsy-turvy, tipty-tupty ways! Bless you.

“Women now seem aware that they need correct shapewear in order to achieve that vintage silhouette, and preferably they would rather go for a solution piece which looks desirable – as opposed to unattractive beige spandex pants.”

I love this quote. Women seem aware. Like a dog with specs perched on its nose. Like a monkey at a typewriter. But they only seem aware. And what they seem aware of is how unbelievably hideous and unacceptable they are unless they conform to a vintage body template of cartoon femininity. OMG, have you even seen a real woman lately? Did you claw at your eyes and sob?

WOMEN! You’re ugly almost beyond belief. BUY THIS, and from a distance your hideous body will seem almost acceptable! Perhaps if you can make this happen, you will not be cast out by society. PERHAPS. Try hard now, girls.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love corsets – always have. I’m not (and was never) a goth. I don’t like corsets as outerwear, and unless you’re at a tarts and vicars party (and have gone as a vicar – fnarrr!) I really dislike that aesthetic.

So why do I like corsets so much? I’ll tell you. It took me a long time to work it out myself, and it was only when I was going out with a really horrid chap, that I realised that on days when I was going to meet him and I knew, before I met him, that he was going to be shitty to me, I would wear a corset. Not to make myself more attractive. But like armour.

I didn’t wear one at any other time. It was a preparation for violence.

A proper corset is made of silk and steel. The steel is spiral-wound and incredibly strong and flexible. It’s a heavy garment, not flimsy in any way. The fabric is in dense layers. When you put it on, it feels like a bullet-proof vest. When you lace it tight, you feel held. You feel safe. It has nothing to do with how it looks (for me), and everything to do with feeling less vulnerable. All your soft places are hard, inviolable. If someone punches you when you’re wearing a corset, nothing happens. You know, unless they punch you in the face, obv.

That might just be me, and my experience of men (THANKS, MEN!). But I bet it isn’t.

Are corsets empowering? Fuck no.

Also yes. They empower me to feel slightly less afraid in situations where I am very afraid. But I’m pretty sure that not dating a dick would actually be FAR MORE empowering.

Personally, I view the rise in popularity of the corset as a sign that women are getting more nervous, more insecure. That their social value is becoming ever more predicated on whether or not they can make someone’s penis happy, whether they can be said – literally – to fit an acceptable mould, and less predicated on who they are, what they are capable of, what about them as a human being adds value to the world, what about them is regarded as inherently precious by society.

And I say this as a woman who owns (but no longer ever wears), eleven corsets.

I discovered, to my chagrin, that this corset is now a little bit too big for me.  BAH.

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About chiller

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist on large data collections for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics from the news and politics to gardening and how very annoying it is, being disabled. Habits include drilling holes about 1mm away from where they ought to be, and embarking with great enthusiasm on tasks for which she is neither physically nor intellectually equipped.
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7 Responses to About corsets.

  1. stillphosphor says:

    I enjoyed that, though I’m not in complete aggreement.
    I’ve tried one of those waist-shaping M&S garments, some years ago, on the eve of my wedding. My mother and I both thought we might have a go at flattening our stomachs for our respective dresses, and soon found that these were hideously uncomfirtable and deeply innefective. They may have changed in seven years, but I sincerely doubt it. Such garments are dutiful, reek of self-loathing, IMHO. Nothing like the supportive, protective feeling of steel bones.

    I think that the rise of the corset has a lot to do with some remarkably reasonably-priced and well designed ones showing up in the UK, with daily sale prices on short runs of items meaning that a steel boned or even waist training corset can be had for under £40. I hadn’t owned one in years, and due to one of these companies, I now own three.

    I have worn them as outerwear: one has a brocade design of curling peacock feathers which I wouldn’t dream of covering up, and I don’t go to Tarts & Vicars parties.

    I see positive and negative sides to the wearing of corsets in the mainstream, so I’ll rattle on a little further.

    The fashion corset (plastic boned, lace trimmed) has become a sign of allowably saucy ‘fun’ for women. Like the rather limp message of the Spice Girls (what do we really really want? Some bit of meaningless nonsense!) it’s the shorthand for female sexual power. So long as it’s on hen nights, or for ‘spicing up’ (a term that makes me shudder) a relationship. Some of the people buying these kind of corsets have looked around the internet and found out they could do better.

    A steel-boned corset does change the way a woman looks, temporarily. I know its shallow, and all surface, but if you can go from feeling rather lumpy round the midsection, and generally somewhat unhappy about yourself, to feeling like an hourglass-shaped goddess, then it can’t be all bad. Am I saying larger women aren’t beautiful? Gods, no! But I am saying they have a substantial advantage over very slender women when it comes to this style of garment, which can’t be said of the general public’s view of any other kind of fashion. If you’ve got more to work with, the curves, and the contrast, look more fantastic.

    Of course there’s much more important things in life than cleavage, but being made to feel that you look fantastic, when everyday high street fashions are tailored and labeled to make you feel excluded, and magazines promote harsh diet regimes and plastic surgery, must surely be a good thing?

    • chiller says:

      But why does how you look matter SO MUCH? It shouldn’t. My argument is that this is a collective madness, a sort of folie a tout. That being a bit lumpy in the midsection is sufficient to make a woman feel socially unacceptable enough to talk about the alternatives being a) a corset or b) paying someone to cut you or c) starving yourself is … well, it’s something we ought to be fighting, not celebrating the fact that we’ve managed to find a non-surgical solution to our unacceptable bodies.

      I completely understand what you’re saying, mind you. It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s that I’m not going to play any more.

      I must say your experience of the awfulness of “shapewear” is the same as mine (though not directly with M&S stuff). The fact it’s only available in black or “flesh” colour (“flesh” only if you’re white and have been dead for a few days), should tell us all we need to know, shouldn’t it? Some years ago I purchased a pair of those long line Spanx knickers that go up to just under your bra and have wee legs in them. I got the thing halfway on before my hand slipped as I tried to wrestle it over my hips, and I punched myself squarely in the jaw. I also had a moment of unalloyed terror after getting into it, when I discovered that, having completely exhausted my arm muscles putting it on, I did not have the strength to take it off.

      Once in place it rolled down, formed deep and hideous folds, dug in, rode up, and looked fucking awful. I was better off with my (at that point) only slightly chubby arse (which is now chubbier and I love it and would not fetter it in elastane for all the tea in China).

      I think you’re legally required to wear corsets as outerwear because – how can I put this delicately – you are a goth, and it is the Ways of Your People.

      • stillphosphor says:

        Dude. I don’t think I’m a goth. Never did know exactly what I was, but did hang out with ’em. Although most goths say that.

        How you look doesn’t matter that much. I’m a 40-year-old woman who doesn’t own any foundation, and only wears lipstick or eye make-up to enjoy playing around with colours that match or contrast with my outfits. I can’t tell you how many people seem surprised that I don’t use a whole mask of make-up at my age.

        But you can’t totally deny that something that makes you feel good about the way you look can be a good thing, can you?

        I might feel good about myself after eating something delicious, going for a walk in the beautiful countryside, writing a piece I’m pleased with, or hearing my child reference something tolerant and admirable that I’ve taught her. But I also feel good about myself when I look in the mirror, and think I look hot.

        That could be when I’m naked; wobbly or otherwise. Or when I just catch myself looking really happy. But it also happens when I’ve put a good outfit together.

        It’s pleasing in just the same way as the well-thought-out response, or well-crafted phrase.

        Yes, it’s superficial, but it’s still THERE. And I go out with a little speing in my step.

        Even if I dyed my hair a natural colour and had a WAG make-over, I’d still be six inches shy of being classed a little person. or, to put it bluntly, a dwarf.

        Plus, I’m funny, if you don’t mind me boasting. I use my face to express my emotions,
        and I’m physical. I sing in public, and skip when I’m happy. Oh, and I speak my mind.

        In other words, hem me about it whatever trappings you like, and I won’t be a conventional beauty, or a ‘yummy mummy.’

        So I’ll admit, when I know they’re looking at me, and despite my not conforming to any mainstream ideas of fashion or beauty, and I can see in their eyes, or from their
        reactions, that even the most conventional-seeming people think I look good, it gives me a little boost. Is that so wrong?

      • chiller says:

        No, I don’t think it’s wrong at all.

        I don’t think you’re (that anyone is) wrong for feeling that way.

        But I think it is mad that women’s self-esteem is so often based on a very specific type of approval from others, and it’s an approval based on whether they are sexually attractive. That approval doesn’t have to come from men. But it is about sexual attractiveness and it is a thing women (generally) do that men (generally) don’t. Which immediately flashes up a little red warning flag, to me.

        In the context of this particular conversation, we’re discussing an article of clothing (the corset) which has inherently sexual connotations and for which there is no male counterpart (there are male corsets: there are some subsets of society where a man may wear an ornamental corset and be considered sexy, but a man in a corset is not shorthand for a particular type of sex or a particular type of sexiness, nor will he provoke an across-the-board sexual association/response in the way a woman in a corset will).

        I find that quite mad.

        The older I get, the less inclined I am to wear makeup. I now only wear it when I’m nervous. Makeup is a face corset. 😉

  2. stillphosphor says:

    I like it when people admire my writing, I also like it when they compliment my ability to dress artistically. Today my hair is shaded neon yellow to apricot to orange, my dress has similarly-shaded sun print, and my sandals are orange. It pleases me.

    • chiller says:

      Yes, I hear you. I don’t think all the things one seeks approval for are about sex. There are as many shades of admiration as there are of grey. (ha! DYSWI … oh, you did. *slumps*)

      But wearing a corset, specifically, is sexual in this society. Corsets and stockings (if stockings are displayed AS SUCH) are sexualised garments. They have a history of being sexualised garments that goes back hundreds of years, probably because prostitutes throughout the ages were unlikely to remove them while fucking. Do a one word google search and look at the images. SEXY LADY SEXY LADY SEXY LADY SEXY LADY x 500.

      Even if a corset work as an outer garm isn’t saying anything sexual to you, it is to a very sizeable chunk of the people looking at you, and there is no way you aren’t aware of that, unless you only ever wear a corset to go climbing mountains in the Outer Hebrides. Alone.

      • stillphosphor says:

        To be fair, when I went out in the peacock corset, I wore it over a long-sleeved dress, so while my shape may have been interestingly remoulded, I wasn’t displaying a lot of skin, and I was meeting an old friend outside a venue where Amanda Palmer was playing, so compared to the folks going in, I was positively commonplace. If people are thinking SEXY LADY at me, then I don’t really mind, unless they shout something abusive. I haven’t had the chance to wear a corset out of the house to anything else, as I don’t go out these days, and if I AM in a social gathering, it always seems to involve a meal, making corset-wearing impractical.

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