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23-03-2005
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helena's Avatar
 
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Corsets
Article from yesterday's Guardian......its interesting. I never liked Miss Minogue.




The big squeeze

Kylie Minogue, who stepped on to stage this weekend with an eye-watering 16-inch waist, is just the latest star to revive our breathless obsession with the corset. So what is it about getting trussed up in whalebone that remains such an enduring fantasy? Laura Barton sucks in and laces up

Tuesday March 22, 2005
The Guardian


Perhaps I shouldn't have had lunch. Indeed, to be in with even a cat in hell's chance of mustering the waspish proportions of Kylie Minogue, pictured on stage this week twirling a heavily corseted 16-inch waist, one would surely have to forgo eating, drinking and probably all breathing whatsoever. Not to mention a few ribs.


If you've ever been stuck in a lift, you will have a hint of what it is like to be laced into a corset. There is a sudden blaze of panic, of airlessness, before one is distracted by the fiery lick of the laces, and the sight of flesh as it concertinas over the spine and disagreeably rumples over the waistband. Kylie having set an irresistible challenge, I find myself in Rigby and Peller's central-London store, where Jill Kenton, director of the Queen's favourite lingerie company, hoiked me into a series of increasingly sturdy corsets, tugging at the laces with gusto. With a few brief tugs, my waist has been squeezed from a stalwart 26 inches to a violin-shaped 24 inches. Yes, breathing is tricky, laughter impossible, yet I feel curiously emboldened. Preposterous garment it may be, but there is something about women and corsets. We've been liberated from our bustles and freed from our hooped skirts, but we can't seem to get over our guilty fantasy to lace ourselves up too tightly to breathe. The popularity of the garment may undulate every bit as the figure it achieves - from its peaks (Madonna's conical brassieres and the film Dangerous Liaisons sent corset sales "through the roof", says Kenton, as did another film, Moulin Rouge) to its troughs ("even over Christmas they died a death," she notes wryly) - but the media excitement over Kylie's burlesque John Galliano outfits earlier this week is certain to prefigure another stampede for the waspy waist.



What is uncertain is why, beneath the ebb and flow of fickle fashion, we harbour a constant, low-lying throb of affection for the corset. It is a passion fuelled by literature, television and Hollywood: Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind hollering for Mammy to pull tighter on those corset laces; Judy Garland in Meet Me In St Louis, breathless and limping after being squeezed down to some improbably inched waist. And, naturally, corsets have played a starring role in countless BBC costume dramas - after all, one has to have a bodice to rip. But in 2005, the fashion for corsetry sits pretty uneasily with our notion of ourselves as modern women. Can we simultaneously yearn for emancipation and a 16-inch waist?

The earliest corsets arrived in the 13th century, and it took us seven centuries to break out of them. One might, therefore, expect the very notion of corseting to be filed next to foot-binding as an example of history's curious sartorial enslavement of women. The effect, after all, of all that lacing and whaleboning and thick metal rivets was an array of physical problems that one might broadly describe as "squishing the innards". Tales abound of welts, fainting, even of unborn foetuses crippled in the womb. "In the 19th century," says Lucy Johnston, curator of 19th-century fashion at the V&A, "there were magazine adverts for 'healthy' corsets, saying they had less boning but still enhanced the figure." In reality, unsurprisingly, they were no better for the feminine health than the other sort - indeed, the campaign against the corset was waged as much by doctors as it was by women. "Burn the corsets!" wrote the proto-feminist writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps in 1874. "Make a bonfire of the cruel steels that have lorded it over your thorax and abdomen and heave a sigh of relief."

And yet still fashion salivates over that hourglass silhouette. It is tangible in the new-found predilection for burlesque (the burlesque performer Dita von Teese, also the current squeeze of the singer Marilyn Manson, is rarely sighted outside a tightly clinched bodice) as well as the boom in exotic, expensive lingerie labels such as Agent Provocateur, Myla and Coco de Mer. "A corset can make you feel sexy and look fantastic ... [it] can really enhance the female figure," says Serena Rees, co-founder of Agent Provocateur, which has sold corsets since it first opened in 1994. Meanwhile, Charlotte Semler, creative director of Myla, says that it will be selling its 'mistress corset', tightly laced at the back, for the second season running. The hourglass figure, she notes by way of understatement, "is very sexy".

There may even be evolutionary reasons for its popularity. The corset seemingly freezes the female form into a perpetual state of being in flagrante: the arched back and heaving bosom, even the state of breathlessness. "There are special reasons for corsets being sexually exciting," explains Desmond Morris, author of the Naked Woman, "two of which are quite contradictory reasons: first, you can see a corset in a puritanical way, in that it acts like a suit of armour, making [the woman] less natural, more controlled, more unavailable. Or you can see it as a form of erotic bondage." However, the basic appeal of the corset, Morris elaborates, is that it exaggerates the magic ratio of waist to hips, which for women is 7:10. "That silhouette is going to have a sexual appeal at a primeval level," he says. "It's signalling the child-bearing pelvic girdle, there's no great mystery about that. And, as the male's magic ratio is 9:10, if the female's ratio becomes 6:10 it becomes super-female because it takes it further away from the male ratio." Today, Morris argues, corsets cling on only because of their fetishistic attraction. "And Kylie," he notes, "has a strange fetishistic appeal. In modern times, women have wanted to be more active and don't want to make themselves into these armoured-bondaged females."

Yet the corset has, in more recent times, been reclaimed and championed by some feminists, who argue that in fact the health risks of corset-wearing were greatly exaggerated by men who felt that the corset embodied a sort of thrusting, empowered feminine sexuality, perhaps not entirely unlike what the codpiece did for men. In The Corset: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele debates precisely this point, stating that those who crusaded against the corset did so in an effort to constrain women's sexuality. She says that nowhere in her extensive research into costume history has she found the fabled minuscule-inched faint-inducing corsets of legend. In a year-long investigation carried out in conjunction with a fetishist named Cathy Jung, Steele found that daily tight-lacing created no enduring effects on the woman's health. Displaced organs, left to roam free, appeared to replace themselves happily.

Indeed, what the corset grants its female wearer is a very different kind of sexuality to that routinely peddled on the covers of lads' mags and available for a few crisp notes at the likes of Spearmint Rhino. It is at once a marriage of pure sexuality and a level of restrained social respectability. Arguably, this is why the corset enjoys an enduring popularity with brides: the corseted wedding dress at once being a manifestation of purity, socially sanctioned union, and the marital sex which lies before her.

The corset projects a sort of womanliness, as opposed to the attractions of a vest-wearing slip of a girl ("It needs hips and bosom and bottom," says Rowan Pelling, founding editor of the Erotic Review.) Vivienne Westwood, one of the first designers to haul corsets out of the wilderness, says the corset is about a real, if contrived, womanliness, which needn't only mean constriction. "We want ladies to live and breathe," she says. "The corset, flat at the front, which pushes the bust high, gives a feeling of straightness and pulling up tall through the shoulders to add to the effect of a very important lady whose great impact is her face." And while the argument that a corset focuses the gaze on a woman's face, as opposed to her cleavage or her waist, is debatable, it is undoubtedly true that it grants the wearer a certain poise. "There aren't many items of clothing," observes Pelling, "you can put on that transform the way you walk, the way you think, the way you hold yourself." The only thing comparable, she suggests, is wearing a fabulous stiletto heel. Whether the corset will continue to sway in and out of fashion in the coming years remains to be seen. Increasingly, one might argue, women who want radically to reshape their torsos do not require the lifting, girdling effects of the corset because they have the surgeon's knife - even cosmetic lotions and potions - to permanently uplift and whittle away parts of their anatomy should they so desire. Liposuction, perhaps, has become the new whaleboning. But all the collagen implants and surgical sculpting money can buy cannot really compete with the irresistability offered by the corset: it is the thrill of the unknown, the gift to be unwrapped. Cinched and breathless in a shop fitting room on a grey Monday afternoon, even I have to concede this to be true.


What do you think? Should modern women wear Corsets? Chanel did so much to abolish this 'constraint' yet women still crave it.......

Feel free to post pics of corsets.... Gaultier/Tom Ford/Galliano have all championed them....very rarely do female designers feature them interestingly.

Not sure if this should be in Designers & Collections though....

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23-03-2005
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I love my corsets. I wear a 20" corset but I know a fetish model by the name of industrial bit**h that wears an 18" - for that truly waspy look - I am going to keep training my waist to maybe 19" and then stop at that. My favourite corsets come from Morgana

attached is a pic of my favourite. I love the colour against my skin as I am dark skinned.

BTW Kylie could not have been wearing a 16" corset. I have almost the same stats as her, except my waist is tinier by 1/2" - She would have had to be permanently encased for the past 4yrs for at least 4hrs a day diligently to get anywhere near that. And as we know she has not!


Last edited by SJPdeux; 13-03-2007 at 08:00 PM.
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23-03-2005
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when do you wear your corset? to go out? does it not hurt?

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23-03-2005
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I wear them to go out, on shoots or in training. Wearing a corset is never about fun. Corsets don't and should not hurt a wearer. A corset is gradually cinched in over a period of wears in other for the wearer's spine to get accustomed to the pressure. The more you pull in the more the curvasure(sp) is pronounced. Hence the term training. Its like feetwrapping, a process to permanently alter your pre-disposed form by manual manipulation.

I like the shape and form created. It is just so striking and i guess i can liken it to the femme fatale syndrome. The power of the shoulder pad is now in the waist!! lol

corsets&cinchers (proper ones!!!) are sooo expensive that it is not an habit to be picking up on a whim.

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23-03-2005
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hm.. does it permanently hurt your organs though? Is it worth it?

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23-03-2005
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I've always wanted to do it... so I'm very curious about the responses that will be posted...

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24-03-2005
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i would love to try on a real corset if find them very interesting and elegant as it enhances the female figure. although i would not like to go into the training aspect and start altering the appearence of my waist. maybe when i have the money some day i will by one and try it, out of curiosity:p

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24-03-2005
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do you think that Kylie should be prancing around in a corset giving her a 16" waist though? surely not very 'modern'......

what did you think of the artilce. Interested to hear any male views.

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24-03-2005
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I used to wear corsets and also i sold them where i used to work!

I think they can look really beautiful and i love the one that Kylie was wearing.

But i have seen the pictures of Kylie in the corset and it does not look like a 16" waist to me, i'll post a photograph.

By the way the corset is by galliano and Kylie has denied that she had a 16" waist from wearing the corset.

heres the photo ( from yahoo news)


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Last edited by Ms. Diorella; 24-03-2005 at 02:49 PM.
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24-03-2005
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thanks miss diorella

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24-03-2005
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No problem helena

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24-03-2005
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^ it looks like a 22" to me???

@cowboyboots...
my very first corset was not a 'proper' one but from Agent Provocateur. It was a good base to start. You don't want to start off with the heavy artilerry -

I know a lurvely laydee in south east if you are interested in made to measure though x

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24-03-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helena
do you think that Kylie should be prancing around in a corset giving her a 16" waist though?
I like seeing corsets, but only when it's not overdone. 16" would be way too much, it's looking too unnatural. But I've heard of men who like that.

But I also like to see the natural shape with a little belly and I would not like to see it on every women everywhere. And I also like a healthy lifestyle and seeing people breathe freely so this should not become mandatory again.

The above pic of Kylie is ok. But that's never 16"...

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24-03-2005
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excuse me for stating but this is not about what men may like or not like. Give me a break!
And it is not about naturalisation but more so about accentuation. I am sorry but you have seriously ingnited my angry flame. Women DO NOT dress primarily for men fgs! And of course you can breathe freely in a corset, otherwise kylie would have made headlines for other reasons...

As I have said before. Training involves a process of time and as such there is no health implications. My god, have you heard what shoes do to your feet!!! :mockshockhorror:
Please, poinions are great but experential experience would be a lot more useful in this circumstance. A lot of people are going to be reading this thread to learn new information, and not tobe mis-informed!

Adieu

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24-03-2005
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p.s show me anyone that can PRANCE about in a 16" corset and I will happily wear cheap shoes for a week

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