Monday, June 9, 2014

‘Victorian Secrets’ by Sarah A. Chrisman

Book cover: Victorian Secrets, What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself, by Sarah A. Chrisman. The cover image depicts a woman's left hip, waist and torso laced inside a corset and the main title is inside a scrollwork banner superimposed over this image.
In Victorian Secrets, author Sarah A. Chrisman (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013) shares her experience as a full-time wearer of the Victorian-style corset.

Chrisman’s husband Gabriel gave her the corset as a birthday gift and she at first resented the attitudes of female suppression that she believed the corset represented.

She tried it on, reluctantly at first, and found it improved her posture and seemed to reduce the severity of her migraines.

The size of Chrisman’s waist went from 32 to 22 inches.

Wearing her corset, while a personal choice, was not without controversy. Chrisman documents time and again being exposed to misconceptions and prejudices directed toward what Gabriel described as her “off-brand” diversity.

How pervasive is the “accepted” view of a corset as stifling and confining?

My most recent media impression of Industrial-era corsets is a depiction in Masterpiece Theatre’s Mr. Selfridge. With the men away at war, female employees find it difficult to work in the department store’s loading docks because of their corsets’ tight bindings. The solution proposed by the store proprietor’s wife is to allow the women to discard their corsets and instead cinch their blouses with a belt.

With this recent depiction in mind, I found Chrisman’s book to be very enlightening. She and her husband have an extensive collection of antique Victorian clothes. I appreciated reading about her experience as an ambassador for our society’s past.

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