Thursday, December 12, 2013

Queen Victoria's Children review

Looking back through posts, I realized that this is the first time I'm doing a review for a documentary film. This was a good film though and requires one.

For those of us who have busy schedules and a lot of books to read already (yes, me), sometimes we turn to documentary videos to do a little bit of catch-up on our knowledge. Queen Victoria's Children is a three-part series released by the BBC that chronicles Queen Victoria's relationship with her immediate family and the influence she had on them over the years.
Based on previous readings and film watchings, Victoria was a woman who never would have won any Mother of the Year awards. This documentary takes an objective approach to looking at her and Prince Albert's history and relationship, and the effects it had on how they raised their children. Both were very critical parents, and despite the outward appearance of domestic bliss in the royal household, there was an enormous amount of strife between the royal couple and their nine children.

A controlling and belittling critic of her children, Victoria at the same time drove her children away but also tried to keep them close enough to control their lives, even in adulthood. Pulling from historical events and personal papers and letters of the queen and her children, the filmmakers are able to bring to light a very detailed picture of Victoria as an occasionally doting, beastly overbearing, and appallingly narcissist mother.

From the arranged marriages she oversaw of most of her children, to the manipulative methods she used to try and keep them close, Victoria's portrayal of home-wrecker is less than ideal, but it's an aspect of her nature than helps to shed light on who she was as a queen and a mother.

Great in its use of historical fact and documents, the method of storytelling is also engaging and does not bore the viewer. Each of the episodes of well-defined in its focus point but also manages to tie into and lead to the next flawlessly. At about 3 hours, this short series is very informational and is a great view for anyone interested in Victorian history, but Queen Victoria herself.

Overall review - 5 out of 5

1870s Bustle Issues

Well I finally got my grommets in and sat down to attach them to the support panels of the bustle.

Then I started to piece together and attach the ruffles to the back of the bustle.

Only to find out that even though I did buy the required amount of fabric, there is not enough for the tiered ruffles that go along the back. I went off to the fabric store to try and pick up some more fabric (I only needed an additional yard) only to find they didn't have anymore of the bright purple fabric I'm using.

On to plan B. Since I have the lighter purple bias tape, I had visited the notion of alternating the strips of ruffle between dark and light purple but didn't want to go through the extra work (Yep, I was feeling lazy). Well now I get to go back to the drawing board and pull up that plan. 

I found a good coordinating fabric, so now I just have to sit down, cut strips, hem them, and then piece back together my dark purple strips of fabric so they fit in the area that I need them. In the end, I think the extra effort will give the bustle a really fun look.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Portrait of a Lady review

It has been forever since my last post. The holiday season is upon us in the retail world, and it just keeps on getting crazier and crazier with each passing day. My days off have been recently spent traveling and trying to finish some cross stitch projects (more on that in another post), but I did finally get around to watching a costume drama piece that has been on my watch list for forever (not kidding on this one).

The Portrait of a Lady is a film adaptation of the same book, written Henry James, and is directed by one of my favorites, Jane Campion. After waiting nine months (yes, nine) for a copy to come in at the library, I rushed home to watch it, only to be very disappointed.

It's very rare for me not to like a costume drama, and I had high hopes for this one since Campion was directing and it starred Nicole Kidman, who is also one of my favorite actresses. The story itself though was downright dull, none of the characters were likable in the least, and the overall pace was about as fast as my shower drain with a giant hair clog.

While I have not read the original book, I read through the synopsis via Wikipedia and it seemed like a fairly close adaptation of the original content. Supposedly James' story is supposed to examine the themes of "betrayal, personal freedom, and responsibility." About the only the only thing I got out of the 2 hours and 20 minutes I spent watching this film was some finished cross stitch.

And then the costumes. These are the main reason I sometimes watch my costume dramas. Lighting was often so dark it was hard to get a glimpse of what the dresses even looked like, and the few you did see had maybe less than a minute of screen time. For example, the lovely confection on Kidman here:

Was visible only long enough to make me want to know more about it, for the simple reason that I couldn't see enough of it! In my attempts to discover more, I have found there are very few movie stills from the film to be found. Unless of course you're searching for the image where it looks like Kidman is fighting a massive migraine.

Yeah, I would probably look like that too if I had to watch the movie again.

Movie - 1.5 out of 5
Costumes - 3 out of 5

Friday, November 1, 2013

September and October Shopping Finds

It's been a "busy" shopping period, and I'm not just talking about the one we've been having at work. A lot of little things have sort of popped up and I just couldn't resist getting them as well as starting to stockpile a few things for the next costume projects (since I apparently don't have enough already).

To begin I had purchased one of the Windham reproduction fabrics a couple years ago with the intention of making it into a late 1850s/early 1860s dress. When I looked up the pattern requirements, I found 7 yards was - surprisingly - not enough. It has taken almost two years, but I finally found a vendor that I can purchase a few extra yards from and then maybe get cracking on the project next year sometime.

My hope is to have this made to fit my circular hoop skirt, for which I have my own pattern that lives in my brain. The top I want to make into a pagoda sleeve style bodice that was popular during the late 1850s. Right now I'm debating whether or not to use the pattern I already have, the Simplicty costume from the Wisconsin Historical Society (#3727), or Heather's version from Truly Victorian (TV440). I would definitely have to do a few mockups, but right now I'm leaning for the Simplicty pattern.

Simplicity 3727

Truly Victorian TV440

Also added to the fabric stash is a lovely steel gray/blue dupioni silk that my wonderful mom picked up for me at Mood Fabrics in Los Angeles. The fabric actually has more blue in it and looks much better in person.

I already know that I want to use this for an 1890s evening dress, similar to this beautiful specimen designed by Worth.

I already have the patterns for this costume, 1892 Ballgown Bodice (TV490) and 1893 Bell Skirt (TV292), from the Truly Victorian pattern stash. When I pulled the bodice pattern out a few months ago, I started drafting a few changes to the pattern I wanted to make right away, but that's as far as things have gotten.

Onto book finds. I made a couple of trips to some of the local Half Price Books stores in the areas and found some greats books!

The one I'm most excited about is the American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs. This has been on my wish list, but I could never find a copy for a decent price. This one was only $5 and in great condition. Altogether my book haul was only about $35. If you aren't shy about getting used books, I definitely recommend seeing if there is a store near you or buying online. They always have great deals on some hard to find books.

Last but not least - TIARAS! We've had a couple pretty ones come in at work for homecoming season and the upcoming holidays. I took advantage of my employee discount and purchased this one.

Along with a headband that is designed to look like the one Michelle Williams wore in The Great Gatsby. For $10, I don't think it looks too bad. I may head to the fabric store though to see about replacing the elastic band with some satin ribbon so that it ties on.

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With payday this week, I finally got around to ordering some corset/boning supplies, so hopefully I'll be able to finish up my new 1870s bustle soon.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Finished Indienne Tea Dress

I finally finished my early bustle tea dress a couple days ago, but I'm just now getting to photos and posting them. The weather in Northeast Ohio over the last couple of weeks has been less than ideal so for the moment I only have photos of the dress on Doris the Dressform in some really bad lighting. Maybe next spring I'll get some better photos.

The completed dress with all its new additions. Although it can't be seen, all the interior seams are now overlocked to prevent raveling. The bodice was made using the 1873 Polonaise (TV410) and the Waverly Indienne print fabric.

Detailing of satin ribbon bows that were added to the bodice front and above the elbows on the sleeves. The fringed tassle trim on the peplum is part of the original decoration when it was first made.

View of the demi-train and the back of the overskirt portion of the polonaise. This now sits much better because...

Remember the original skirt and how it hung? I was originally going to add one row of ruffles. Then things got a little out of hand.

Instead I added two ruffles, both seven inches deep, and then a third ruffle, about 2.5 inches deep, along the top to cover the raw edges. While it was it was not in the original plan, I'm glad I added the extra rows. Remember how I had issues with the dress hanging oddly?

Not anymore! Now the dress has the perfect early 1870s silhouette which will probably only get better once I finish my grand bustle. Not to mention it gives it a very lovely, feminine feel.

The skirt was completed using the 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt (TV202). The fabric is a navy shantung silk that has actually been reversed so the wrong side is the only thing you see. Due to early college student budget constraints, I figured this would be easier to do rather than purchase silk outright.

On to the next project! (To be determined

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dating like it's 1885

A couple months ago, I began dating for the first time. During a recent conversation, the subject of Victorian courtship was brought up. As I explained to Kerry, it's funny because I actually know the dating rule book from over 100 years ago, and it has changed quite a bit. How much? Well this is for Kerry, enjoy babe.

During the Victorian Era, the idea of dating was nonexistent. Instead couples went through a ritualized form of it known as "courting." Rather than being the romanticized ideal found in fiction, the courtship period was actually viewed more as a career move for a gentleman.

Courtship differed for each of the classes on both sides of the pond (America and England), due to different ideals and laws that were in place. For people growing up in rural areas, it was not as strict of an ordeal. Young couples could socialize with each other at events such as Sunday services, church gatherings, and community balls. Men were usually looking for a wife who would aid in helping to run the farm or the house, women for a husband who could financially support and take of them. These partnerships would have probably had a bit of mutual affection from both parties upon marriage.

Within the rigid structure and tradition of the upper classes though, courtship was very different. Matches were often made to aid in climbing the social ladder or to bring income into an impoverished estate or business. Rather than the church picnic, the way a young lady was introduced into Society was as a debutante at the start of the Season (England) or after she had finished her schooling (America), which was when she was about seventeen or eighteen. American society functioned on a year round social schedule. The London Season however, was the height of matchmaking for both American heiresses and English society girls. The Season ran from April through July and was an endless string of dinner parties and balls that the young woman attended in hopes of catching the eye of an acceptable suitor.

Acceptable meant a number of things. Usually a higher income was desired, the larger the better. Connections with business partners and the peerage were a plus. The holding of a title of any type was the ultimate catch.

The acceptable suitor was selected during the numerous social functions both men and women attended. Balls were the equivalent of speed dating that could lead to the courtship ritual. At these functions would be men and women of good standing and connections, in other words, acceptable marriage material. As previously mentioned, courtship was ritualized by strict rules. A certain amount of decorum was expected from these same men and women who were looking for a suitable partner for more than just the next quadrille.
  • Ladies must never enter or cross a hall unattended.
  • No gentleman is allowed to enter the ladies' dressing room at the ball.
  • Ladies should not dance with the same partner twice in a row, neither could they dance with the same gentleman for more than three dances.
  • Unmarried (and married) ladies could not leave the ballroom alone.
  • Gentlemen could never lead a lady into the ballroom by the hand, instead he offered his arm.
  • Gentlemen who were waltzing never pressed upon a lady's waist if he was not wearing gloves. If he had no gloves, he used a handkerchief.
This is just a handful of the etiquette rules found regarding balls. Because of it's rigidity, endless rules, and the interfering presence of chaperones, it could be hard to speak with anyone directly. The art of flirting using various accessories - fans, handkerchiefs, gloves, parasols - became a means of showing initial interest. Surprisingly, this silent communication was permitted because it was deemed acceptable.

Along with meeting, couples then had to be introduced properly, also requiring its own set of rules:
  • Unless being introduced by a mutual friend, a lady could not approach a person of higher rank. Before a lower-ranking person could be introduced, the higher-raking person also had to give permission.
  • Single women could not address men without first being introduced to them.

After the introduction and an initial conversation, the couple could look at possibly walking out together and keeping company. These were the initial stages of courtship, also dictated by another set of guidelines.
  • A lady could not receive a gentleman in her home while she was alone. Another family member had to be present.
  • No physical contact was allowed between the couple. The gentleman could offer his gloved hand if the road was rough, but this was it.
  • The lady could not be invited to visit the gentleman's place of residence.
  • Ladies could not ride in a closed carriage alone with a man, unless it was a close family member.
  • If a gentleman was visiting the lady's house, he could not stay late and did not visit at night.
  • Impure conversations were not held in front of single women.
  • Intelligence was not encouraged by the lady, neither was an interest in politics.
  • Meetings were supervised by a chaperone, typically an older female family member of the lady's family.

If the courtship progressed to the point of an engagement, the couple were then allowed to hold hands in public, go for walks unsupervised, and take unchaperoned rides. They were also allowed to meet behind closed doors, but had to be separated by nightfall.

While this method of dating may seem vastly outdated, it was in place for various reasons. The first was that a lady's highest asset was her virtue. These rules helped to ensure that it was never called into question. If there was even a whispering against the lady's character, it could forever tarnish her reputation. Courtship was also taken seriously because once it progressed to the point of an engagement, it usually resulted in marriage. Broken engagements were fodder for gossip and tarnished reputations.

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For more fun info on Victorian etiquette and courting check out these books.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

1870s Bustle Start

In preparation for going to talk with the American Heritage Girls, I started to whip up a new bustle in case I had extra time to go over the 1870s period with girls (I always like to have extra things to talk about). Besides, it's been on the to-do list as part of the underfrillies overhaul.

I've definitely been in need of a new early bustle for awhile. My original bustle was made using the Truly Victorian Petticoat with Wire Bustle (TV101) and was done during that early "Before I Knew Better" sewing period. While it still looks fairly good -

It's definitely ready to be retired (or at least remade), considering this is how one of the interior bustle tapes is currently being held together.

As I've discovered, the early 1870s skirts need more support so I upgraded and purchased the Truly Victorian Grand Bustle (TV108) pattern. Rather than go with a simple white bustle again, I went through a few online museum collections and Web searches and found some inspiration in this early bustle from the Los Angeles Museum County Museum of Art.

Image via Pinterest
I'm a huge fan of the color purple as well so I found a nice cotton fabric in a semi-bright purple (because that's going to look great under those white petticoats). After cutting everything out, I started on my least favorite task - sewing and overlocking edges on ruffle, 7 yards of it.
I got a lot done actually in one afternoon, including adapting the inner support panel so that it laces and the bustle will collapse.

Marking the back pieces for the wire channels
Adapted panel pieces
Unfortunately, it was getting late and I ended up thwarted by the fact that I ran out of supplies. To finish, I have to get some more grommets but rather than order just grommets, I might as well take advantage of flat shipping and order some other corset and crinoline/bustle supplies that are on the shopping list as well.

Evening with the American Heritage Girls

On Thursday, I was the special guest for the American Heritage Girls troop that my cousin Samantha belongs to (same Samantha who was at the tea party). The girls are working on their Our Heritage badge and asked me to come in and talk about early clothing during the 1860s.

I wore my blue bud dress and took along the green and black-striped dress, and the KCI sheer stripe dress that both fit over the elliptical hoop. The girls had a lot of fun looking at the clothes (open drawers are always a great conversation starter), and going through all the accessories I had brought along as well.

Demonstrating how to use a button hook
Like others talks I've done in the past, it's always good to pass along the knowledge I've gained and to work with the kids as well. Looking forward to when I get to do another.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Queen Victoria's Gene book review

This book I chanced across while browsing through the history section at Half Price Books. While interested, I didn't buy it right away. Instead, used the old smartphone to snap a picture of the cover, went home and ordered it from the library instead.

It's been a while since I read a purely non-fiction piece of work and this one had me intrigued just from the title alone - Queen Victoria's Gene: Haemophilia and the Royal Family.
For those who are not familiar with the history of Queen Victoria's family, they were carriers and recipients of the Hemophilia gene, a blood disorder that mostly affects males in the family by preventing blood from clotting properly. Two of Victoria's daughters, Alice and Beatrice, were carriers of the disease, and her son, Leopold, was affected by it. Through her children, it came to affect a number of the royal houses in Europe. What it strangely intriguing though, is the Hemophilia gene was never prevalent in the royal family until Queen Victoria's time.

The authors, D.M. Potts and W.T.W. Potts, set forward their research and ideas in the book about where this gene could have come from. Was it a 1 in 50,000 chance mutation, or was Victoria herself possibly the illegitimate offspring between the Duchess of Kent and a Hemophiliac man? The research is impeccable, and scientific proof helps to back up any of the theories they put forward.

The let down for me in reading this was based on the synopsis on the back cover, the authors were going to explore the possibilities of how history might have been different if the Hemophilia gene had not been prevalent in the royal families, specifically the Romanovs of Russia. In each of the history chapters though, they reiterate the historical facts, then relegate the alternative outcomes to only a few short paragraphs.

Exploration and investigation into other historical mysteries like the identity of Anna Anderson, the supposed lost Grand Duchess Anastasia, help to round out a the author's research on how Hemophilia could also help in identifying those who were related and what their roles could potentially mean.

The material itself isn't too dry, despite being rooted in historical and scientific facts mostly. It's the theories and the material that is put forward that drive book (excluding one chapter that just didn't make sense to me on why it was included). Although I know a number of things about Queen Victoria's family, there were still a few surprises (Kaiser Wilhelm and his wife are both great-grandchildren of the Duchess of Kent and therefore cousins), and definitely a few more questions to ponder.

Overall rating - 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And Only To Deceive book review

So a long time ago my mom sent me a couple of books. "Here, you'll like these. They're mysteries and they take place during the Victorian period." And they sat on my shelf, for forever.

Well I finally decided to get around to reading them recently, only to discover that it was a SERIES of books and that I had #2 and #3, but #1 had disappeared somewhere. Lucky me, the library had an electronic copy available for lending so I got it, started reading, and was finished five days later. The last time I read a book that quickly was before I got a full-time job and had endless hours to burn, so that says something. So what is this great book?

Let me introduce you to the Lady Emily mysteries, written by Tasha Alexander. And Only to Deceive is the first in the series, but based on this book alone I'm ready to jump headfirst into the rest.

The story is told from Lady Emily Ashton's point of view. A widow after only six months of marriage, she is finally emerging from her deep mourning period and has reentered society, only to find herself embroiled in a mystery involving museums, art forgeries, and the black market for stolen antiquities.

While the mystery is not a very deep one, Alexander does a wonderful job of keeping the plot twisting and turning to the point that even I wasn't quite sure where it would end up.

What particulary interested me though, was the accuracy in which Alexander portrayed Lady Emily's emotions and actions as an upper middle-class Victorian woman. Her thoughts of marriage as any easy way out of dealing with an overbearing mother and of seeing widowhood as a way to finally be independent, were very realistic views that some woman had during this era. I've read other Victorian inspired historical fiction pieces before, and it's obvious the author has taken someone with modern view sets and plopped them in a Victorian world. Alexander's Lady Emily however, is a Victorian woman who is completely at home in her late 1880's time period.

Due to similar names, the side characters were sometimes confusing, but this is made up for by each of their historically matched development and attitudes. History buffs will recognize some of the names (Renoir, with whom Lady Emily has a painting done by), and a number of the locations mentioned in the story.

In addition, the costumer in me was secretly drooling over the fact that there are several mentions of Lady Emily visiting with and receiving dresses from the House of Worth. Alexander mentions that she thoroughly researched her material and based on some of the dress descriptions, I would love to know if they are real Worth dresses (I suspect at least two are from originals) and if there are any made up from designs or other existing dresses.

After glancing through the other books on my shelf, I suspect that these are not heavy duty reading, and fall more into the category of a great afternoon read. Although this is only my first foray with Lady Emily, I greatly anticipate the next outing.

Overall rating - 4 out of 5

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Indienne Tea Dress Upgrade

It feels like it's been forever since I posted anything actually costume related, but there have been other things going on.

I've put aside my underfrillies project for right now and pulled one of my older dresses out of the closet to work on and, ultimately finish. My Indienne tea dress was originally started back in Fall 2010 simply because I was still on my high of getting into historical costuming (it was my second dress). After browsing through Heather's lovely collection of Truly Victorian patterns, I selected the 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt (TV202) and the 1873 Polonaise bodice (TV410) patterns. These were my reasons:
  • I wanted a bustle dress. The bustle dresses were the reason I first fell in love with the Victorian period to begin with, and I wanted a bustle dress dangit!
  • I loved the skirt. It had a train, was ginormous, and did I mention the train? Still rather ignorant of Victorian costume design, all I saw was the word "demi-train" and wanted it.
  • Being a poor college student, the idea of a bodice with the overskirt attached attracted me to the polonaise. It meant I only had to get one pattern rather than two. Ignoring the fact it said for "intermediate to advanced sewers only" I still bought it.

Well I made up both patterns plus the bustle with attached petticoat (TV101), again ignoring recommendations that I make up the larger bustle to support the larger skirt and ended up with this creation - an early 1870s early bustle tea dress.

Ignore the funny look, I was working with a school group when this was taken.
Totally psyched about my second dress coming out much better than my first (we'll revisit that horror story at some point), I wore it and loved it - for the time being.

I pulled the dress back out and wore it to my Dress U conference early this summer. As I pranced around in my lovely dress, I kept looking at it and all I could think was, "It needs more." Gone were my inexperiences of being a newbie sewer. I now had a better working knowledge of the costumes, trims, and the dress styles of the different periods. I wanted to upgrade!

It started right before the Canton Woman's Club Victorian Tea. My biggest gripe was the skirt for the outfit never hung right. It bugged me from day one but I wasn't sure what to do about it. I even sewed a false petticoat/lining underneath originally to help provide a bit of volume and attached a "dust ruffle" to the hem. All it resulted in was the outer layer of shantung silk kept slipping and never stayed in place.

False dust ruffle attached to lining
Note how the skirt just "hangs"
To solve the skirt problem, I decided to add some ruffles. After checking out The Art of Manipulating Fabric and skimming through for some ideas, I went to work. Three days before the Woman's Club tea I started, and it went downhill from there. Original plan, add one tier of ruffles to stiffen and weigh down the hem to make it hang correctly. End result - well let's just say it definitely wasn't what I had planned.

Ruffle work in progress. All my ruffles I usually gather by hand and pin.
While the skirt ruffling is done, now it's been a matter of flushing out small touches on the bodice. For example, after making my new corset, the bodice fits differently now. Because I am unable to adjust seams without taking the entire thing apart, I readjusted the placement of some of the buttons instead.

The top button ended up being moved almost two inches. Whoa!
And now that I'm in that whole, trim-is-an-awesome-thing-the-more-the-better, mindset, I decided to make a few bows for the dress as well. They'll be sewn to the center front of the bodice and at the top of the sleeve flare above the elbow.

Well before I even get started on the sleeve bows though, I had one other small task. As a newbie, I never gave the idea of serging a second thought. As an experienced sewer now, I mentally kick the 2010 version of myself in the posterior. Rather than hand sew all of those edges or be super lazy and fray check it, I did the unthinkable, I removed the sleeves of the bodice to overlock stitch them.

Removing the sleeves after 3 years
While it has still been awkward getting everything through the sewing machine, it's been going much faster than hand sewing (and we all know how much I hate that) and provides for a cleaner, finished product.

If you look at the photo, the fabric edges on the right are overlocked while the two on the left are not. It's not very clear, but you still see a difference in the smoother edges of the overlocked fabric. Anything I can't overlock stitch gets a bit of fray check just to keep everything from raveling. There's also a little bit of tacking to do in various areas and then hopefully it will be finished.

Now I'm sure there are a couple of people scratching their heads going, "Wasn't it finished before? You've already worn in and now you're just making changes."

This is my clarification. The Indienne tea dress has sat in an extended state of being Done. "Done" means it may not be finished, but it is wearable. I've always known that I would probably be making changes to this dress at some point once I learned a bit more in the trims department. "Finished" means the dress is not only wearable, but will most likely not have any further changes made to it either. Once I make the changes mentioned in this post, there are no other changes I see myself wanting to make and will therefore add it to the Finished costume category.

I will add though that if you talk to most costumers, there is no such thing as ever being "finished" with anything.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Corseting - Myth vs. Fact Pt. 2

A continuation of the previous post on corset myths and facts.

With these next myths, a number of the elements fell under previous headings, but the speculation behind them led me to place them in their own space. 
Image via Pinterest

Myth #5 - All women who wore corsets tight-laced them
Not true. While most women who could afford even a basic corset did wear one, not all women had the luxury or stamina to tight-lace. A working woman who had to rely on her mobility would not have chanced the restrictiveness of tight-lacing. An upper class or rich lady however, would have the means and ability to pursue tight-lacing if she chose.

Before we go into women who did tight-lace, we'll first cover what tight-lacing is exactly. The Victorian ideal for waist reduction was about 2"-4". Tight-lacing was even more extreme, reducing the waist by 4" or more. Rigorous training was involved with tight-lacing, usually beginning when the woman was a young girl. She would wear a corset that, over a gradual amount of time, would be reduced in size little by little. Take a look at Princess Mary of Teck's waistline. While it cannot be confirmed that she tight-laced, this was not something achieved overnight.

Image via Pinterest
When the desired waist size was achieved, it would be very hard to move around, breathing could only be done with small amounts of air since the lungs were compressed, and blood flow would be reduced to the internal organs.

Because of the extreme lengths at which the waist was reduced, it could result in health problems that were more extreme than some of the conditions mentioned in Myth #3. It also had a severe detrimental effect on the body...

(A small note on tight-lacing. I accidentally did it once while in a hurry to change into costume and forgot to measure my waist beforehand. I spend the entire morning feeling very light-headed, my ribs ached miserably, and even sitting caused pain. When I later checked, I had laced myself down to 31", I'm usually at about 33"-34".)

Myth #6 - Corsets deformed the natural body shape
Any time you alter the body in a way that it does not naturally occur, you are, in a way, deforming it. Even pierced ears are considered a way in which we alter our natural bodies. Corseting, especially tight-lacing, did the same exact thing.

Corsets molded and shaped the body to make the waist smaller. Worn on a daily basis as they were during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, the body would eventually start to retain some of the shape created by the corset. 

This illustration was used mostly by anti tight-lacing campaigners to show the effects a corset could have on a woman's body. Regular corseting may have compressed the ribcage and internal organs slightly, but not as much as tight-lacing did. Organs could end up in different locations altogether, and in some cases, the lower lungs would be compressed so badly that they would fill with mucus since the woman couldn't breathe in completely. The rib cage would be completely reshaped into a smaller form with the ribs angling more inward.

Before anyone starts to scoff and say how untrue it is, visit the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia sometime. They have on display two skeletons next to each other; one is a regular skeleton, the other is one that suffered the effects of tight-lacing. They look almost exactly like the illustration above. I would offer pictures as proof, but photography is not allowed in the museum.

The corset that was mostly responsible for the whole "deformation" issue is the Edwardian corset of the early 1900s. As fashion evolved at the turn of the century, so too did the corset that went underneath. Instead of a straight-backed hour glass figure, the awkwardly bent, S-bend became all the rage. This new figure still retained the reduced waist, but now the corset was designed to push the woman's lower backside back, and thrust her upper chest forward. The body does not naturally shape itself this way and led to increased strain on the spine.

Illustration from Ladies Home Journal, 1900
Myth #7 - Corsets were restrictive and uncomfortable
Now that we've read up a tiny bit on tight-lacing and S-bend corsets, I can certainly understand where the ideas of corsets being torture devices could come from. I believe this myth mostly surfaces from the lack of understanding about corsets though.

Corsets are restrictive. Yes, they are, I won't deny it. Remember how your grandmother always said to bend at the knees to pick things up? Your grandmother might have worn a corset once upon a time because when wearing one, there is no bending over. There is no slouching either, or quickly turning around. Basically your body is encased from hip to bust in a thick garment that has molded the body into an entirely different shape that requires careful movement to make sure that the displaced mid-section stays momentarily displaced.

Corsets are uncomfortable. No, they are not. Let me explain this one. A corset is not uncomfortable if it is fitted correctly. This is the key element here. Corsets are not a one size and design fits all type of garment. Although they are not tightly worn, a corset is like a glove that is snug over the body and molds to the individual's curves and body shape. A proper corset is designed and fitted to the individual who will be wearing it on a regular basis. If Susie takes Lisa's corset and puts it on herself, chances are it will be very uncomfortable because they do not have to the same body shape.

Here I must speak as the experienced wearer. I bought a ready made corset long ago and wore it for a long time. It was somewhat uncomfortable and while it did shape to my body after a while, it still didn't fit in certain areas (I have been gifted with almost no cleavage). I finally coughed up, bit the bullet, and made my own corset to match my body shape and measurements. What a difference! I have never experienced discomfort while wearing it, and actually enjoy wearing the corset under my costumes now. 

Myth #8 - Whew! Thank goodness the Victorian Era is over and corsets died out
Nope, corsets are still alive and well today. They of course exist because costumers/re-enactors use them to achieve a period correct look for historical clothes worn in the modern day. A number of companies and small businesses, like Orchard Corset, make ready made corsets for use as fashion pieces, shape wear, and for other costuming purposes. Some women actually prefer corsets to wear not for waist reduction purposes, but for support of the bust. While a bra places all the weight of a woman's bust on her shoulders, a corset supports it from below and the weight is placed on the corset.

Like their earlier counterpart, the whalebone stays, corsets have evolved over the years to take on different shapes. The best modern-day counterparts are the girdle and Spanx. Although neither look remotely like a corset, both take the mid-section of the body and shape it into a more desirable appearance.

Girdle from Orchard Corset
Spanx from JCPenny
Corsets also exist for modern medical purposes too. Individuals with scoliosis or internal injuries may wear a specially designed medical corset to help limit mobility in the torso and protect it.

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These are just the handful of myths that I hear most often when the subject of corsets is brought up. I certainly invite for additional input on other factoids heard throughout the years since some can be quite be amusing. I hope this has been informative and for those looking to discover more, I suggest these books:

The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele

Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset by Leigh Summers

A History of Underclothes by C. Willett Cunnington