At the turn of the century the corset was very popular (and there was a minor revival in the 1950ies), but since then it has become something like an outcast (I know that this expression applies only for persons, but I can't think of any other). I would like to revive it as an article of female underwear. The aim must therefore be to get the corset out of its shadowy existence and to make it a piece of clothing that is as widely accepted as any other, e.g. the bra.
The question is how to get there! First of all we have to ask ourselves: What are the reasons for the decrease of the corset? At the beginning it was certainly the liberation movement, in the course of which women wanted to get rid of all restrictive and forming elements. The ladies were striving for liberty, not only mentally, but also physically. This development led to the rather shapeless dresses of the 1920ies and 1930ies. During the 50ies there was a short corset revival, but the liberation movement in the 60ies soon put an end to it. Since that time corsets have been totally out of fashion.
So the corset has nearly disappeared for almost 90 years now. People who wanted to wear it in spite of the new fashion didn't dare to show it in public. Consequently it became an article for small groups of people. This was probably the reason why it survived, although its existence was rather modest. Yes, on the one hand I think that the corset's survival is due to those small groups of people who remained consequent and went on using it. On the other hand it's also due to them that efforts to re-establish the corset for common use do fail. I'd like to explain this in the following:
If a group of people is - in one or more aspects - excluded from the public, then this is probably owing to its members' behaviour which doesn't comply with generally accepted standards. In our case this means that the function of the corset was no longer only to form a small waist, there were other many functions attached to it, especially in the field of sexuality. This may have been the case in the last century, too, but not to such an extent as it is in our days. By the time other things were connected to corset-wearing, things that initially had nothing to do with it! What I'm talking about are high heels (in my opinion high heels are higher than 12cm; about 5 inches), patent leather and leather clothing (there were nearly no corsets of rubber or leather a hundred years ago!), extremely long fingernails, body piercing or even mutilations, tattoos etc. ... These all are practices from sexually very liberal and permissive surroundings (in the following I'd like to call them 'unusual': this expression is meant to be merely descriptive and without any judgement). Another serious point is that these practices - unfortunately together with corset-wearing - are often performed in connection with prostitution. The public knows about this fact and for most people the 'unusual' practices are inseparably connected with corset-wearing. All these things contribute to the fact that corset-wearing has a negative image in our society.
I take it that corset-wearing was generally accepted and even desired a hundred years ago. It was even abnormal not to wear one. Women put on corsets mainly with the intention to become more beautiful; there were sexual reasons, too, but they weren't so important. At the period there was not the least connection between corsets and the 'unusual' practices. Every woman wore one. It was a common piece of clothing for both the housemaid and the lady which by no means was only worn by extravagant people. This was possible because the corset was generally accepted, as the bra is in our days. Today nobody would call a lady extravagant or deviant if she wore a bra. This is due to a quite functional view of the bra. It certainly has erotic components, but they are not the main reason why women wear bras. I think that it is not the bra itself, but rather a beautifully formed bust that has an erotic effect (which is 'normal' = generally accepted eroticism). It was the same thing with the corset. Not the corset itself, but rather its 'product' - the small waist - was looked at as erotic.
Therefore I have developed a theory: If the corset shall be re-established as a normal and functional piece of underwear, then its image has to be redefined. It must no longer be looked at as a fetishist and deviant article that is often connected to prostitution, but rather as a functional means to get a small waist, as it was common at the end of the last century.
In order to get there it is necessary to take away the negative image (which I explained above) from the corset. A lady who - for functional reasons - is interested in corseting, shall not at all have to be afraid of being connected to 'unusual' practices by public opinion. But unfortunately this is still the case today. I don't like the injustice of public opinion, but it does exist and we have to cope with it.
I'm sure that the majority of women would prefer not to wear a corset if she additionally had to wear high heels (of more than 12cm; 5 inches), had to have tattoos and piercings or exaggerated make-up.
I'd like to make clear another point: I'm not totally against any means besides the corset to promote femininity, but I'd like to reduce the use of these things to a generally acceptable level that can be performed by most women. An example: I often wear shoes with high heels, but the heels are not 15cm; 6-7 inches, but only 7-9cm; 3 inches high. This height is fully accepted in our society and it contributes to femininity. Concerning piercings I confine myself to earrings, as many thousands of women do. My fingernails have an average length, for I think that very long ones would hamper free movement. The same applies to make-up: in my opinion exaggerated make-up is not beautiful. One should confine oneself to an average level with these things to make the corset popular again, for it is not so much the corset itself, but the related attributes that prevent it from becoming a fashionable article again.
I do not want to prevent anybody from performing any 'unusual' practice. What I want to say is that all these things are not appropriate to make the corset popular, on the contrary, they have a bad effect on the corset image. We can only hope that the reputation of the corset will improve as a consequence of the recent fashion shows. I confine myself to promote the corset alone. I'm not against the performance of all the other things, but I'm against their connection to the corset.
It should be normal to wear a corset. The corset image should be quite similar to the bra image. I think that I as a corset-wearer can contribute to reach this aim by looking a bit girlish and 'innocent' and by signalling that I'm laced because a small waist is beautiful and dainty (Girl-next-door-look). In my opinion this strategy is the best because it allows other ladies to lace without to be connected with prostitution. For a woman who wants to become a corsetee it is much easier to identify with someone who looks like the girl from next door than with someone who looks like a vamp or a prostitute.
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