Torturous beloved fashion: the corset

A very small waist was the requirement of high fashion. Peterson’s Fashion Magazine, 1888.

Women endured the restrictive corset as required daily wear for centuries, and finally cast it off as World War One loomed.  Why did they endure dented organs and reduced lung capacity? Oh, the power of the desire to conform, and to actually excel in the conformity.  Look into your closets, ladies, and tell me,  how many pairs of high heels do you have?  Of course you know that these shoes are a podiatry surgeon’s dream. . . these are the shoes that keep him or her in an expensive sports car.  Bunions and crooked toes must be corrected after years of abuse if a human would like to keep on walking. And so, the modern woman is still very much a slave to fashion.

But back to lacing a corset.  Think about how much time it took to do it each day, and if you lived in a household with no other women, somehow, the inventive female mind would figure out how to lace her own corset behind her back.  Also think about how many things a woman did not do because of her reduced lung capacity thanks to the little portable prison in which her fashion kept her imprisoned. Women can order corsets today, but we use them more as a fashion statement or an occasional accessory, with a much more comfortable waist that does not damage organs, than as a necessary entree into polite society. Take a look through the Amazon portal below, and browse around to view modern versions of the corset.

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3 Responses to Torturous beloved fashion: the corset

  1. John Cowles says:

    Dear Irene,

    I recently finished the Eva and Henry story. It makes me wish to learn more of the history of Paine Hollow and the rest of Wellfleet. My wife and I recently purchased a home on the NorthWest corner of Lt. island and I’m sure where we live was visible from Eva’s perspective.

    We would love to see the collection of pictures you have from your family and also would be interested to join a walk around Paine Hollow if you were ever to lead one again. Thank you for writing the story of Eva and Henry, both my wife and I were very touched.

    John Cowles

    • admin says:

      My goodness, thank you for this comment. I have been very busy caretaking for a sister who is ill with cancer, and must have missed your comment. I cannot tell you how many spammed comments I receive on my website. . . too many to count. And so forgive me for missing this. Are you on Cape Cod year round, or are you a “summer colonist” as folks from Eva’s day would term it. I do have a great collection of photos, and want to do a presentation of them at Preservation Hall in Wellfleet Center. I have not set a date yet for this year, 2018. If you are here in the summer, I will make it for July. If you are here now, I will gladly make it for March or April. Thank you so much for your kind comments, I am totally chagrined for my very late reply. Sincerely, Irene Paine

      • John Cowles says:


        We are currently weekenders in the fall, winter, and spring. We rent our place in the summer. If you do this on a weekend between September and say June 10th, we would be happy to come. Also, we are up on the Cape for the entire week of Labor Day.

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