Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself

Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself

by Sarah A. Chrisman

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Overview

Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah A. Chrisman

On Sarah A. Chrisman’s twenty-ninth birthday, her husband, Gabriel, presented her with a corset. The material and the design were breathtakingly beautiful, but her mind immediately filled with unwelcome views. Although she had been in love with the Victorian era all her life, she had specifically asked her husband not to buy her a corset—ever. She’d heard how corsets affected the female body and what they represented, and she wanted none of it.

However, Chrisman agreed to try on the garment . . . and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The corset, she realized, was a tool of empowerment—not oppression. After a year of wearing a corset on a daily basis, her waist had gone from thirty-two inches to twenty-two inches, she was experiencing fewer migraines, and her posture improved. She had successfully transformed her body, her dress, and her lifestyle into that of a Victorian woman—and everyone was asking about it.

In Victorian Secrets , Chrisman explains how a garment from the past led to a change in not only the way she viewed herself, but also the ways she understood the major differences between the cultures of twenty-first-century and nineteenth-century America. The desire to delve further into the Victorian lifestyle provided Chrisman with new insight into issues of body image and how women, past and present, have seen and continue to see themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626361751
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: 11/01/2013
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sarah A. Chrisman was born in a suburb of Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington in 2002. Alongside her husband, Gabriel, she gives presentations on nineteenth-century clothing, dress, and culture. Chrisman is also the editor of the upcoming True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen. She resides in Port Townsend, Washington.

Sue Lean is a professional exhibit project director with a special interest in the remarkable history of women's suffrage. She organizes events to celebrate state and national centennial anniversaries and has organized interpretive exhibits for the Temple of Justice and the Washington Women's History Consortium. She resides in Olympia, Washington.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Nature and Artifice 1

Chapter 2 Ribbed Rumors and Stayed Truths 11

Chapter 3 A Step Backward in Time … and a Knotty Problem 19

Chapter 4 Waisted Curves 41

Chapter 5 Stayed Slumber and Sizing Down 47

Chapter 6 A Museum Visit 57

Chapter 7 Twenty-Four-Seven 65

Chapter 8 Meeting Mom 71

Chapter 9 Serving at Table 77

Chapter 10 Figure Facts 83

Chapter 11 Broken Bones 93

Chapter 12 Customized Curves 111

Chapter 13 The Freedom of the Corset 119

Chapter 14 Objections 123

Chapter 15 Votes for Women 131

Chapter 16 Feminine Anatomy, and Matters of Hygiene 147

Chapter 17 "All the Pretty Girls" 157

Chapter 18 Duck the Malls 161

Chapter 19 Waisted Flight 165

Chapter 20 Straight-Laced Security 169

Chapter 21 Hatters Logic, and Pinned Perils 173

Chapter 22 Veiled Glances 183

Chapter 23 Crisis for Beauty 191

Chapter 24 A Year On 199

Chapter 25 A Victorian Lady's Dressing Sequence 211

Chapter 26 Fifty Years of Fashion: A Model Performance 217

Chapter 27 Loose Laces to Tie Up the Tale 223

Epilogue 235

Further Reading 237

Acknowledgments 241

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Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This delightful narrative takes the reader through the author's personal transformation both physically and emotionally as she interacts with corsetry. There are broadly three themes in the book: 1. the author's emotional and physical changes due to wearing a corset, 2. feminism, 3. making informed decisions (data driven decision making). Of most interest are the changes in the author's self image, confidence, and personality from wearing a corset. Most of what she describes are results that I would not have expected, thus the book frequently delivers insights into the author and society that are both informative and instructive. Most importantly she demonstrates how a corset can be personally liberating within the confines of our modern society and the assumption of gender equality. The book assumes gender equality while acknowledging gender differences. In this frame of reference the author explores her own personal development in defining her own concept of self. She explains why she choses to adopt a lifestyle that could be falsely interpreted as being repressed, and demonstrates how she is liberated and strong. This juxtaposition is used as a means of exploring what feminism means to the author and how she operationalizes the concept in her own life. Ultimately the message is sent that to be feminist also means doing what makes you personally happy and healthy, a positive message indeed. Lastly, a recurring theme is that of informed decision making. She repeatedly recounts stories of people claiming to be authorities on subjects that have clearly not taken the time to perform adequate research. In addition, she describes her interaction with people, and how often their reactions to her are fraught with misconceptions, assumptions, and faulty information. Much of the book discusses how she attempts to correct some of the bad information that is presently floating around society. It is refreshing and inspiring to read prose that is well researched and supported that does not compromise. All too often we accept ill informed opinions and willful ignorance. This text points out the inherent hypocrisy and idiocy of these behavior patterns by showing how absurd they are when viewed from the perspective of those who have to tolerate the consequences of poor thinking. Ultimately the book is a story of self actualization and discovery that is well worth the read. At the very least you will come away from the book knowing substantially more about corsetry, but also more about the author and how she views the world since it is written in such a way that you feel like you are sitting at home chatting with an old friend.
KittyRanch More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. I read a lot of historical romance taking place in the 1800's and am interested in how people lived, what they wore, ate, etc. This is a modern day woman who has chosen to wear clothes from the late 1800's to early 1900's and all it entails. I for one would not do this but I find it festinating. If your interest is peaked, I recommend this book.
Hearthrose More than 1 year ago
Victorian Secrets - What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah Chrisman was on my Christmas list, and I quite devoured the whole book since returning home from my mother's house this afternoon.  Naughty of me, perhaps... but so much fun!  I do love a good book gorge after the holidays.  Mrs. Chrisman took up wearing a corset because of a birthday gift from her husband one year... and in that year dropped 10" from her waist.  They were avid collectors of Victorian antique clothing before, and the love affair blossomed.  By the end of the book, Mrs. Chrisman was dressing in Victorian fashion (even if home-sewn) full time.    She started with sewing her own fitted clothing (finding a skirt whose waist is dramatically smaller than one's hips is quite the feat) and went on to dressing in long skirts full time. This book feels like a ratification of everything I hold dear, and supports many of my corseting hopes.  Long skirts with swishy petticoats are a tactile luxury?  But of course!  Dressing like a lady results in being treated like one?  Naturally!  Gloves and hats have a practical use?  Whatever did you think they were being worn for? I very much doubt that I can expect to carve 10" from my waist in a year of corseting.  Mrs. Chrisman is nearly 8" taller than I am, for a start.  She wasn't trying to do serious waist training  - and this book is not a book about how to waist train.  She started wearing a corset, loved it, and kept going along on a course from that choice.   This is an autobiographical piece, with quite a bit of research and debunking of corseting myths along the way.   I'd call the first third of the book, "myth busting" - which is nice. It's well worth a read if you're interested in corsets.... I'll be loaning this out on my path, I am sure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book and read it with an open mind. It seemed to me the author reacted to other people in a reasonable manner when some were quite unreasonable. Her decision to wear and continue to wear a corset is her right. And she makes a reasonable case for misinformation being the cause of certain harsh attitudes toward corsets. The rib thing being a whale bone rib is reasonable. Look at some everyday sayings and the manner in which they have been corrupted. The first one that comes to mind is 'another thing coming' which began as 'another think coming.' I enjoyed the book. I found the book while doing some research on that era.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it changed the way I look at things and not many books do that for me. 
TXLadyBird More than 1 year ago
Although I'm not a prolific book reviewer, I think this book is an interesting read for anyone interested in the Victorian lifestyle and dressing, in particular. It tells the story of one woman's experimentation with corset wearing or "waist training" as it has now come to be called. As I write this I am wearing my own corset (thanks to this book) and I very much appreciate the support it gives my back as I stand long hours working. I highly recommend corset wearing to anyone who must stand at work. Do you see the people at the big box hardware stores wearing back supports? Well, a nice corset is very similar, and it creates a pretty figure in addition to providing that support. I learned a great deal about corsets and how to shop for a good one through the trial and error method used by the author, so I didn't have to repeat her mistakes. On the downside, I found the book slow reading at times, and it was rather tiresome to hear over and over again how pretty everyone told her she looked dressed in Victorian clothing (ok, we got it already!)I also didn't care for her snide political statements, but I think she made those out of sheer ignorance since she was living in a very liberal location and so was likely unaware of how the rest of us live. Regardless, they were unnecessary in the context of this book and the editor should have removed them. Overall, it's an easy read and you can scan through the slow parts to get to the real information, which is very interesting and informative if you're into Victoriana.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And i think to myself maybe the next doll will be of wood
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Puppet man*I mumble*
ssourgirl More than 1 year ago
Ridiculousness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who would eva wanna rp here