Corsets and tightly laced stays were the expected undergarment of the aristocracy and often a symbol of class distinction. The restrictive shape of a lady’s corset prevented her from retrieving a dropped fan and forced her to keep her position, whereas a servant was required.
Corsets have a long and interesting history. First designed and introduced in Italy over 500 years ago, its architectural shape of a straight-sided inverted cone has transformed over decades to ultimately reach its iconic design which forced a woman’s breasts higher and accentuated a tiny waist, reminiscent of an hourglass figure.
Throughout the Regency era in England (1811-1820) fashions changed and corsets underwent a variety of styles to mould the female form. With the introduction of Grecian style gowns, ladies became fond of short stays which were less restrictive. Fashion designers then turned their eye to menswear where dandies and other wardrobe conscious men embraced a similar version of the traditional corset to trim their waistline. There are even tales of the Prince Regent being laced into stays for a more handsome appearance. Later during the Victorian era when women’s clothing design shifted from a high-waisted empire gown to a more natural waistline, corsets resurged in popularity.
No doubt the mention of corsets brings to mind the “bodice ripper” cover images associated with romance novels, but throughout history women underwent great discomfort for the price of being tied up tightly in these garments. Boning was often added to the sides to keep the woman’s body compressed within the panels where metal eyelets and hooks at the front and back bound the laces to create an attractive illusion, the tighter the better. There are historical myths of women having their last rib removed to achieve an even more severe affect all for the sake of beauty.
Striving for the smallest waist and exaggerating the body to such proportions brought with it an abundance of health issues including lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fractured bones and at times, fainting. No matter, women of every era traded their own health for the opportunity to appear more alluring and continue to do so today. Despite the liberation of clothing and women’s rights, a current redesign called a waist enhancer has modern ladies vying for the teeniest waist possible.
But before you shake your head and declare the corset a manmade instrument of torture, consider the comparison to popular modern footwear where a lady’s foot is reshaped and constricted into narrow high-heeled shoes. Serious back ailments and feet issues resulting from stiletto heels and pointed styles are a sure sign of history repeating itself and yet as I glance into my closet, I realize I’m as susceptible as most any female out there.
About LONDON’S WICKED AFFAIR
In Anabelle Bryant’s wickedly romantic new series, secrets and seduction go hand in hand . . .
Lunden Beckford, Duke of Scarsdale, has chosen to exile himself far from London, with its painful memories and cruel gossip. Forced back to town on business, he’s eager to make his stay as brief as possible. But first, he must honor his promise to find a suitable husband for his friend’s little sister. On one hand, Amelia Strathmore has grown into a stunning, statuesque beauty. On the other, the willful chit is more likely to scandalize a drawing room with her outspoken opinions than blush prettily. At least she agrees to accept his help—if he fulfills certain conditions.
Though duty-bound to marry, Amelia longs to secretly enjoy some of life’s freedoms first. In this, as in many things, Lunden proves an excellent guide. In fact, Amelia’s girlhood admiration for her brother’s friend is fast becoming something far less innocent. Lunden believes he’s known too much darkness to offer any woman happiness. Yet Amelia is starting to see how much pleasure can lie within the right partnership—especially if one is willing to be a little wicked.
About the Author
Anabelle Bryant holds a BA, MA and is ABD in earning her PhD in Education. She has studied at Rutgers College and Kean University of New Jersey and is an avid traveler. When not in front of a classroom she can be found in front of her laptop writing Regency romance and pursuing daydreams. Learn more about Anabelle at www.anabellebryant.com or on the social media platforms below.