Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself

Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself

Sarah A. Chrisman

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 1632206366

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

On Sarah A. Chrisman’s twenty-ninth birthday, her husband, Gabriel, presented her with a corset. The material and the design were breathtakingly beautiful, but her mind immediately filled with unwelcome views. Although she had been in love with the Victorian era all her life, she had specifically asked her husband not to buy her a corset—ever. She’d heard how corsets affected the female body and what they represented, and she wanted none of it.

However, Chrisman agreed to try on the garment . . . and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The corset, she realized, was a tool of empowerment—not oppression. After a year of wearing a corset on a daily basis, her waist had gone from thirty-two inches to twenty-two inches, she was experiencing fewer migraines, and her posture improved. She had successfully transformed her body, her dress, and her lifestyle into that of a Victorian woman—and everyone was asking about it.

In Victorian Secrets, Chrisman explains how a garment from the past led to a change in not only the way she viewed herself, but also the ways she understood the major differences between the cultures of twenty-first-century and nineteenth-century America. The desire to delve further into the Victorian lifestyle provided Chrisman with new insight into issues of body image and how women, past and present, have seen and continue to see themselves.

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really want to change clothes.” I was having fun adding delight to everyone’s day. “But . . .” My hand rubbed against unyielding steel, under which my back was throbbing. “Here, let’s go back to the room,” Gabriel insisted. “There must be something we can do.” Back in the privacy of the hotel, it was a tremendous relief when Gabriel untied my laces and the two halves of the corset fell away after I’d slid the ­grommets free. I bent my stiff torso backward and forward and reached around to

people did with their greasy T-shirts and jeans; it would have ruined it. There were days in school when we didn’t undress, purely textbook days when relacing and grease wouldn’t be an issue. However, the pressure of social stigma remained. What would everyone on campus think? What would they say? I worried about the attitudes I would encounter within the very particular community of my school. Massage therapists are an interesting bunch—students studying to become them even more so. The

species. I enjoyed how much more aware I had become of my own body since I had started corseting. While the other students in my class tried to remember the location of the spleen and whether the liver was on the left or the right, I knew exactly where all my organs were. I knew the location of my spleen because I could feel it get tender when I caught a cold, and as for the liver, I had seen it in too many articles of corseted anatomy to be ignorant of its location. Knocking on different parts

ambassadors and diplomats to speak for them. The past is far less able to defend itself; it cannot formulate rebuttals. Perhaps that is why it is such an easy victim. Thus, an opinion has become common that everything about the present is superior to anything that existed in the past. It is difficult for many people to grasp that lifestyles may have been different in the past, and yet still completely satisfactory to those living them. History has no emissaries. I hold a university degree in

Monet’s ponds at Giverny. If Arachne had met with Iris, the rainbow goddess, after Athena turned the presumptuous weaver into a spider, the resultant web might have been something like this material. Soft as a kitten’s breath, it lay on my hands with the weight of a butterfly come to rest, like a mist that swirled around me without intrusion. I lifted it up and watched its fey dance upon the air, laughing with delight. I was beyond nervous as I cut the veils to shape, but they were simple to

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