However, I did stumble upon one of my pet peeves, and feel the need to air. The peeve is: “A portrayal of an independent female in historical times, must make a point on how much she dislikes corsets.” I know I’m not the only one who made an indignant bounce when Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean complains over the stays she suddenly has to wear. A woman of her class would have worn stays since childhood, even in a hot climate, at the very least for formal occasions. Furthermore, stays that fits aren’t uncomfortable, and there’s no need to tight lace them.
In The Alchemy of Murder, Nellie remarks that she can’t abide corsets and refuse to wear them. Even though this picture is in the book:
I’d say, by posture and lines, that she’s wearing a corset. She’s a slender woman, so I’m sure she didn’t tight lace- something that seems to have been a practice very few really indulged in. Nellie was a working woman who travelled a lot, so I can very well imagine that she laced herself very moderately. But, she was also a woman who worked as a journalist at a time when that was very much a man's world. She was controversial just for that, and she didn’t need anything that could add to people’s animosity toward her. He pictures show a woman who dress nicely, but with no particular flashiness.
Don’t get me wrong, there were women who objected to corsets back then. And doctors, who actually seems to have objected even more. A discussion on corsets and its symbolism and significance, well, that’s a vast subject. A terribly interesting one, but not something I feel I can delve into at the moment, with all my reference literature packed away.
I object to the trick of showing independence in women by her views on a corset. I can see where it stems from- a corset is for many (most?) a garment that is uncomfortable and restricting and something women have liberated themselves from. So a woman in a historical setting that objects to corsets, is per definition liberated.
I object, because it totally disregards the why’s of a corset. The social pressure, for sure. The demands of fashion and how far people go, in this very day too, to be able to pull it off. Even practical purposes. Corsets, as being underwear, have always been erotized, but a 100 years ago it wasn’t its sole purpose. A corset was also a bra, or something that held your stocking up. Today a corset is either a torture device or used to titillate and I think many forget (or never even knew) that there can be other functions.
This became rather long and ranty, I’m afraid. Not too unclear, I hope. Heap your opinions on me now, I’d like to hear what you think.