Open Thread: Corsets

(A special post-op open thread that I probably won't be able to immediately participate in because of the ICU's "no 3G, no WiFi" rules. But here it is anyway.)

An open note to my doctor:

This is a corset.

This is a back brace.

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the differences and adjust your terminology accordingly. Telling patients that their new back brace is "basically like a corset" is setting up some false expectations in the extreme, let me tell you. If I can't wear it at a Ren Fair and blend in, it's not a corset, dang it.


Susan Beckhardt said...

To be fair, it looks like it would be easier to breathe in the back brace than the corset! (I had to wear a corset once as part of a costume for the play Tartuffe, which takes place in the 1600's, but it was extremely uncomfortable and I wouldn't wear one again, despite how awesome the costumes looked.)

Kirala said...

Now I'm wondering, given the reputed posture/health benefits of a Properly Constructed Corset, if it's possible to have a back brace that does its job while being stylishly corset-ish. I suspect that the construction materials necessary, including tailoring for perfect fit, would be quite outlandishly expensive... but possibly worth it, if one had to wear a back brace perpetually.

Will Wildman said...

At the first ever Ottawa Comicon a couple of weeks back, I attended a one-hour presentation on 18th century clothing, and was surprised to find that corsetry wasn't the most outlandish garment. That award goes to the panniers.

The woman cheerfully referred to them as saddlebags (they share an etymology) and noted that in modern times they were amazing because you could not only hold your lunch and notebooks and gear in them, but could cram in an icepack or two and add some desperately-needed refrigeration to your classic outfit.

Mime_Paradox said...

To paraphrase Ponder Stibbons, I feel that the doctor's analogy is one of those that aids understanding wonderfully while being, strictly speaking, wrong in every possible way. Weirdly, I'm less bothered by stuff like this than I am by some people's insistence in calling any bodice with any sort of firmness and/or criss-cross laces a corset (*cough* Project Runway*cough*).

jill heather said...

I think if you covered the back brace with chain mail and carried a sword, you could pull it off at a Ren Fair.

Silver Adept said...

The back brace there looks more akin to a life preservation jacket for being on water then a corset. There's something, though, in my brain that wonders of it is possible to merge the stylish and attractive loves of the corset with the necessary support and padding of the brace. Surely it is possible for stylish and functional?

Fluffy_goddess said...

To me, it looks like the back brace in the picture is a one-size-fits-most adjustable thing; would something custom-fitted need to be quite so bulky? Because if not, and if the outer material didn't matter, then a lot of the inner materials could be quite supportive whilst still looking decent. An awful lot of aesthetic sins can be covered in french satin.

Cupcakedoll said...

I'm happy to see our hostess is feeling well enough to be snarky about corsets! Wishing you a speedy recovery from wearing picture 2 to wearing picture 1.

CleverNamePending said...

There was a woman in my home town who had to get a back brace full time, and her's had to be custom made or some such nonsense because her family did these huge fundraisers for her (which is not something you see in Canada often). She worked in the optometrist across the way in the same mall as me when I was back in high school, and yeah. Her's looked nothing like that. It was much smaller and looked more like a padded vest then a life jacket. I thought she just had weird fashion sense always wearing the same weird vest until one of my co-workers told me what her story was.

So, for those of you wondering if you could make them look like a corset, unless a lot has changed in the world of back braces in the last seven years, I'm going to guess no.

Will Wildman said...

I'm happy to see our hostess is feeling well enough to be snarky about corsets!

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this was prepared in advance and autoposted, not manually posted. (Note the opening bit about wifi restrictions). Hopefully, she will have had as non-awful a time as surgery can be, and will be able to return to full snark capacity soon.

Unrelatedly, I've just been reading some of the most stupid and hateful internet screeds ever and would like to remind myself that there are, in fact, good things about the world. Anyone want to share a favourite method for restoring equilibrium after staring into the abyss for too long?

(I would explain more the awfulness, but I'd rather not bog down the upbeat Corset Thread, so I figured maybe a parade of good things would be more constructive.)

I've just encountered the Dramatic Song (in German), which is cool, and becomes hilarious once you learn that it's a direct translation and hence point-prover of the original Dramatic Song in English.

CleverNamePending said...


Brin Bellway said...

I've heard the original before, but not German. (I like the bit with the million euros. At least some foreign grandmas could spend those without exchanging them.)

and would like to remind myself that there are, in fact, good things about the world. Anyone want to share a favourite method for restoring equilibrium after staring into the abyss for too long?

I'm sure I can find something amusing and/or uplifting. *digs through bookmarks*
Not positive enough, not positive enough, you wrote much of that so maybe something new would be better...

A folk song about the Last Centurion? Comedic "tutorials" (the background on that page isn't so good, but you can read the titles if you highlight them and the individual posts don't have that background)? And of course, there's always Hyperbole and a Half. (I showed that one to my brother recently. Judging by the amount of laughter, I'm thinking he enjoyed it as much as I did.)

storiteller said...

The term panniers are still used for the saddlebags on bikes. I have to say, I'd much rather carry that stuff on my bike that in my dress. Geeze louise, those dresses look absurd.

Dav said...

These days, I usually sing songs from The Book of Mormon. Complete with choreography. After a ten minutes of tapdancing to "Turn it off", I usually feel much better.

The Other Melinda H said...

Maybe not a Ren Fair, but you could definitely wear one of those to a comic con.

redsixwing said...

I've worn a properly-fitted corset (admittedly, not for long; but it was fun to try) that did not pinch, restrict my breath or disallow most motions. I did have to keep a straight back, but that was, at the time, not a problem.

Having worn both corsets and back braces, I can say with confidence that no, these two things are not equal. Corsets are WAY more comfortable and let me breathe and move easier.

Evan said...

Speaking as someone who knows absolutely nothing about corsets except for stereotypes - I've heard that longstanding use (as in, every day for some years) can actually push internal organs out of place. Is that correct?

Mime_Paradox said...

From what I understand, that really depends on what you're doing, and even so, the answer would tend to be "not really". It only ever becomes a potential factor with the highest degrees of tightlacing, and the biggest potential change appears to be in curtailing the back's ability to support your body, which only really occurs if you're wearing it 23/7, can be headed off with the proper exercise and isn't irreversible, assuming you take things slowly in both directions.

The thing with this sort of thing is that a bunch of the accounts about stuff like this come from a time in which medical knowhow was lacking in a bunch of areas, making it incredibly hard to separate sound medical opinions from stuff that are not sound medical opinions. Sure, we know a bunch of people wore corsets every day. How many wore it the extent that it caused harm? Impossible to say. And nowadays, that sort of every day use of corsets is rare enough that it's incredibly hard to get information from a source that is not anecdotal. The best example, from what I know is Spook, a modern-day tightlacer who managed to train her waist down to fifteen inches before quitting, with no ill effects (although I believe that she couldn't immediately go from corsets to no corsets, but had to do it gradually).

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