The Common Sense of the Corset

The Common Sense of the Corset

It is surely superfluous to suppose that every true woman wishes to look her best, and even the superior feminine beings who loftily pretend not to are for “that sort of thing,” are not above being pleased when complimented on any good point in their appearance. This is quite as it should be, and, since our men folk left off wearing plum couloured satin coats, and the other gay and festive costumes now known as “fancy dress” it certainly behoves us women to do what in us lies to make the world a little more beautiful by our presence.

Only the question is, Do we?

It is just here that the appropriateness of the title of this article comes in, for corsets, or their absence, have much to say to our appearance not to mention health and comfort; therefore common sense should decidedly be exercised in the matter of their selection or rejection.

To start with why do some girls or women suppose it to be a sign of great superiority to dispense with them altogether?

The women of ancient times, also, did not wear corsets, but then their garments were far less complicated than ours, consisting of long, flowing draperies, which concealed instead of defining the figure, and weight being carried on the shoulders. They took a far less active and public part in life than is the case in our modern civilisation, consenting themselves mainly with the care of their household and children, and keeping much to the privacy of their own homes and the “gentle art of the needle.”

Of course, if you adopt the Grecian mode of dress, which falls straight from the shoulders to feet with no sharply defined waistline, or the Princess style throughout, under linen and all, with nothing to divide the figure in half as it were, it is quite permissible and possible to dispense with corsets, especially if you are indulging in no violent exercise, and wear this style of dress mainly indoors or in your own room; but it is needless to point out that this is not a convenient or desirable costume for the average girl or woman whose life is spent outdoors as well as in the house, engaged in all manner of occupations. It is on these lines that the so-called “Rest-Gowns” are modelled. (Old fashioned people made a dressing-gown answer the purpose, and a “rest-gown” is very nearly related to the dressing-gown, though it would scorn to be told so!) And on figures of the tall and willowy type the Princess effect is decidedly graceful, but ordinary modern dress requires corsets, and you only have to look at anyone wearing the usual blouse and skirt, with a hard line of belt round the waist, to realise for yourself the advisability of retaining the corset for everyday life.

In the first place the collection of tapes, bands and belts round the centre of the figure, if tight enough to keep the various garments in position, create an indescribably bad effect, especially should the wearer be at all inclined to plumpness; and, in the second, the strenuous nature of our present-day life, and the more sedentary occupations of the ladies of old time, make some support for our figures essential, otherwise all the agonies of back-ache and other complicated aches become ours, and at the end of the day we shall feel, metaphorically and literally like limp rags. Apart from that, however, we present a most ungainly spectacle to our fellow-mortals, and no one surely would wish, however free from worldly vanity, to go through life looking like nothing so much as a feather-pillow hastily tied round the middle with tape!

There are, however corsets and corsets, and we are not, by any means, advocating either injuriously tight lacing, or the haphazard buying of cheap ready-made stays, which may or may not suit your particular type of figure, and are put on “anyhow.”

These latter, also, do not make for grace, besides often exercising harmful and undue pressure in the wrong place; but how frequently one sees an otherwise pretty girl, who has obviously spent time, money and thought on her clothes, so badly corseted that all her efforts after a good appearance are completely nullified! To get and keep her cheap ill fitting stays into place, she is forced to pull the laces unduly tight, acquiring thereby an unbecoming, flush, plus a rosy tip to her nose, even this sacrifice not effecting her object, for no clothes, however expensive will ever fit properly over badly cut corsets, lace these as tightly as you may.

One need not, moreover, have much medical knowledge to understand the danger of this course, or the many evils and discomforts it brings in its train.

Obviously, the proper thing to do is to go to a recognised expert in the art and be measured and fitted (or send your measurements), paying a fair price, and choosing the style of corset best adapted to your special type of figure.

You will find that you never spend money to better advantage, and there will be a decided improvement in your appearance and health that will more than compensate you for the extra little trouble.

Always remember too, that properly made well-fitting corsets do not wear out as quickly as the cheaper variety, nor do they wear out your clothes either in the same way. If the made-to-measure system does not appeal to you, there are several well-known and reliable makes of corsets you are perfectly safe in buying, as they are cut on hygienic and graceful styles to suit every type of figure possessed by women and girls of all ages. But should you want further information on this important subject, write to the editor, and she will do her best to help you with advice and suggestions.

From Girls Own Paper and Woman’s magazine, 1911.