There’s the correct way to wear a corset and then there’s … not. I can forgive corset-wearing n00bs for not knowing that there is, indeed, an up and a down to this corset thing, but I absolutely cannot excuse TV and film costumers who throw their actresses into corsets any old which way like it’s totes OK. Maybe they’re trying to be edgy? Maybe it’s pure cluelessness?
Whatever it is, I call bullshit.
1. Backwards and Upside Down
That weird metal hook thing down the front? That’s called a busk. An easy way to remember which side the loops go on is that, IF the corset is constructed by someone who knows what they’re doing, the loops will go down the right edge of the opening. It’s like buttoning a blouse.
2. No Chemises
This one is the perennial costume flick trope. It will still be with us long after the heat death of the sun.
Yes, we’ve harped on this multiple times, but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. And yes, we heard from many of you who disputed that it is uncomfortable wearing a corset without a chemise under it, but it goes beyond simple comfort — if you want to ruin your corset faster than anything, by all means, wear it without a chemise. Just don’t come crying to us, wanting to know how to get the sweat stains out of your $800 corset.
Unless you are Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001). I mean, then you can pretty much do whatever you want.
3. Wrong Period
All corsets are not alike. The deal with historical silhouettes for at least the last 600 years is that each period had a specific style of corset that was used to achieve the fashionable shape. That’s why a Victorian corset should, under no circumstances, be worn with an 18th-century gown. I’m looking at you, Amadeus (1984).
4. Corsets in Inappropriate Time Periods
I’m looking at you, Gladiator (2000). I remember bolting upright in my theater seat and exclaiming loudly, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING SHE’S WEARING???” I mean, I’ve seen some egregiously anachronistic uses of corsets in my lifetime, but putting a Victorian corset on a Roman patrician woman pretty much takes the cake. We’re not talking about Amadeus using corsets that were 100 years out of period… No, at this point, why not just have Lucilla wearing jeans and a t-shirt?
5. Corsets are BAD and UNCOMFORTABLE and NOT FEMINIST
In the run up to her live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast (2017), Emma Watson came out firmly on the side of corsets being the tool of the oppressive patriarchy. I consider this a variation on the “OMG corsets are so uncomfortable!” line that routinely gets quoted in the media whenever an actress is required to put aside her yoga pants and wear something that probably reduces her overall measurements by 1″, max. This usually is followed by the corset wearing and historical costuming communities posting angry rebuttals to their Facebook friends insisting that CORSETS ARE TOTALLY COMFORTABLE, GODDAMN IT; AND THEY AREN’T A TOOL OF THE PATRIARCHY.
Emma Watson’s decree that she wouldn’t wear a corset to avoid giving little girls unhealthy body image issues is admirable, but misses the point entirely. Like it or not, historical costumes REQUIRE CORSETS. Sorry, but they do! Also, Emma’s work-around was to wear lightly boned or padded stays, which for the period the film is supposedly set in (18th-century-ish) is totally appropriate for the types of garments Belle wears for most of the film.
My question is, “What’s really setting the unreasonable body standards, here? The corset, which artificially creates a slimming effect without punishing dieting and exercise? Or the other thing … The actress … Who has to keep a punishing dieting and exercise routine in order to land parts?”
I’m just sayin’.
Do you want to yell at us about how comfortable it is to wear a corset without a chemise? Share it in the comments!