A wonderful article on the (im)practicalities of underwear, from the Regency period through to the modern day likes of the Wonderbra.
Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.
***It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed* since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint. It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset. Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape? The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xrRWYouKy0[/embed] But here’s where we can really explore the WHY of shapewear–and ROFL in the process. This is about three guys who decide to test out a girlfriend’s Spanx just for a laugh, and get more than they bargained for. Brilliant. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH8resqXUh4[/embed] If sheer discomfort isn’t enough to inspire you to choose jiggles over bodily strangulation, this fab piece in Bustle talks about the compression of organs, yeast infections, and other fun stuff that shapewear supports. In any case–and whether you are still armoring yourself in shapewear, stowing them away in a rarely visited corner of your wardrobe, or indulging in a full-on ceremonial burning**– may you temper it all with a good laugh and a healthy dose of compassion–for yourself, and for all of us who have ever worried about measuring up to an impossible standard. On that note, here’s another funny and heartfelt piece in Bustle: The Seven Emotional Stages of Wearing Spanx for the Very First Time. Here’s one of the seven GIFs from the piece: Emotional Stage #1: [embed]https://giphy.com/gifs/excited-hopeful-fingers-crossed-5J07pHrJ2lKhi[/embed] *There is, of course, one very important change since Jane Austen’s day. Which is that while we can get our knickers in a twist over the pressure to wear shapewear, Jane Austen could not. Why? Because we’re talking pretty much a panty-free zone. Which I suppose made it way easier to do one’s business in these: **Although the whole bra-burning thing is a myth, we’re wondering if somehow, somewhere, women are setting a trash can full of shapewear on fire.
Just as some don’t understand corsetry and the many myths that are still hanging around, I don’t understand modern concepts of ‘shape wear’, but the desire to alter the shape of our bodies to conform with the current ideal of beauty, has been around for centuries. It’s a fascinating subject.
I wear a corset 23 hours a day, I can breathe, I can do house work, I walk kilometres every day, and have no troubles with it. I make them myself, to my measurements, so they are comfortable, as well as beautiful. I’d rather wear a bespoke corset than modern underwear, any day. I do experiential Era Living, from early Georgian, to early Edwardian, with all the historically accurate clothing and underpinnings, from millinery, down to the shoes, and everything in between, which I make myself. I can say with all honesty that the split drawers are wonderful, they are comfortable and practical. I’ve not used a chamber pot though. Lol.
An interesting article, but honestly, corsets are not as bad as many assume, if it is a bespoke piece, and waist training is undertaken slowly, and with awareness of your body’s limitations, it is quite safe. Pregnancy (in the later stages) moves internal organs around too, yet few ever mention that.