Underwear has always shaped us, in our bodies and our ways of thinking. I read a good article this morning all about corsets, the beginnings of their design and evolution to near extinction with the switch to bras. You can find it here:
The idea under attack in the article is the truth about the long-standing belief women cinched their waists to as small 13 inches. The author claims such reports as false, citing a lack of documented evidence to verify the truth of the matter. But here's my thinking: corsets were designed to be sexy, to make a woman's figure as sleek in the tummy as possible while pushing up the breasts into eye-catching proportion. And just like today where we tend to idolize the svelte figures on fashion magazines, striving to become as sleek and supposedly-sexy as possible through diet, exercise, and when that doesn't cut it, using a knife to reshape our natural form, you can bet your sweet heiney that women-of-the-past, wielded whatever weapons they had at hand to make themselves look socially beautiful.
There was more at stake back then. Today's modern woman can, if she chooses, say, "this is horse sh*t" to what is fashionable and wear a potato sack if she likes, because we've have employment with decent wages, we have independence, we don't need to catch a husband to survive. But back in the Victorian era and before, we did. We needed to do whatever it took to get ourselves married to a man who could support us and our children, and if it meant cinching a corset to the smallest waist possible, despite the indigestion, pain, and other health-problems which squashing internal organs would cause, then so be it. Women would, and did, and still do whatever it takes to make themselves more eye-catching than the next rival. Just ask your local plastic surgeon how much he makes a year.
But I don't think it's ever been just about rivalry and fashion. Social customs aside, corsets are undeniably sexy. So sexy women dare to wear them on the outside of clothes these days, to show just what they can do for their figure. Like a good pair of high heels, wearing a corset feels sexy. I'm sure there were Victorian women who enjoyed the feeling of a tightly bound waist, who didn't feel "dressed" until they had their corset in place, who enjoyed the sensation of being undressed, layer by layer, lace by lace, when their husband was inclined. Isn't that the ultimate draw of historical romance novels, the slow building anticipation which happens only in the undressing of a corsetted woman by her lover?
I look at my own waist and think, "13 inches....erm, not even close" and I don't really feel a strong desire to find a corset made out of adamantium steel in order to get it that way. But how about you? What do you think of corsets?