If you follow me on social media, or have the misfortune to be in a group with me when some poor misguided soul bemoans the evils of Victorian corsets, then you’ve likely been party to my impassioned championing of Victorian corsets, as well as my efforts to dispel misinformation that has been repeated so often that people have accepted it for gospel truth.
A properly fitted corset shapes, lifts, controls, supports, and is completely comfortable. It should never pinch or hurt. It should feel snug like a warm hug. It should never interfere with your ability to breathe, eat, or move in any way. I often nap in mine and I don’t even have to loosen them first!
I make my corsets myself to fit my body and have been making them for a few years now. I find they smooth, shape, and support my back like nothing else. They are comfortable enough to hike, run, do housework, tend the farm animals, build a chicken coop, mend fences, dance, and even take a nap in. How do I know this?
I WORE A CORSET EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH AND I DIDN’T DIE!
As an experiment, and to “put my money where my mouth is,” I quietly embarked on the adventure of wearing a Victorian corset every day for a month from the middle of June, to the middle of July…IN FLORIDA AND SOUTH GEORGIA!!!!!
In order to confront the argument that I didn’t know what I was talking about, I actually lived in clothing I reproduced as faithfully as possible. My long-suffering family endured Mama’s eccentric experiment with good humor. In fact, they fully joined in by the end of it, gamely shooting video and taking pics with me. Even my grandchildren got into the act.
Documenting every step of the way, my family and I went to the beach.
We camped and went on hikes over all kinds of terrain.
I still cooked, sewed, did housework, tended my farm animals, drove my car, and in short, I lived my normal life in a Victorian corset. And guess what? I DIDN’T DIE!! I didn’t faint onto the nearby divan with the back of my hand pressed melodramatically to my forehead.
Weren’t you HOT in ALL THOSE LAYERS??
It was the dead of summer in the South. Of course I was hot. But I wore linen chemises and blouse waists. I wore batiste, seersucker, other lightweight cottons, and lightweight wool. I carried a parasol. I carried a folding fan. I wore a straw hat. I wore my hair up like a proper Victorian lady.
And the strangest thing happened.
All those lightweight, breathable natural fiber fabrics had the unanticipated effect of providing insulation against the heat. Linen kept me cooler than any summer t-shirt or tank top in my 21st century wardrobe. While other family members complained about the heat of direct sunlight on their skin, I scarcely felt it.
The hikes through the Florida woods hardly bothered me at all. My hiking skirt in cotton duck was heavy, but it allowed air flow and protected my legs from any thorny underbrush. My petticoats, drawers, cotton stockings and boots protected my legs from insects and chub rub. My long-sleeved linen blouse wicked perspiration away, dried quickly — even in Florida humidity and an unexpected downpour — and kept the sun as well as insects at bay.
By the time I reached the end of my month-long experiment, I realized how much more comfortable I had been than most summer breaks left me.
To make my comfort findings even more extraordinary, it was during this month that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and treatment begun. For some strange reason, being kitted out like a Victorian seemed to help with pain and flare-ups, regulating my body temperature and supporting my back.
When it came time to return to “normal” life of school events and having to appear socially acceptable for the 21st century, I opted to keep my corset, and most of my ensembles. I just add a 21st century blouse, especially for trips to the doctor so I don’t accidentally find myself answering questions about my sanity.
J/k. My doctor is fully aware of my Neo-Victorian proclivities and thinks it’s pretty cool.
So my style is what I happily call “Neo-Victorian.” It’s a bit of historybounding and a bit of full-on Victorian attire. Contrary to my own preconceptions, most people don’t even give me a second look unless it’s to admire my outfit.
I am currently building my outdoor wardrobe, as I’d planned to join my hubby in the deer stand this fall. While my health has made that unlikely, I am still working on a Victorian hunting, hiking, and outdoor adventuring wardrobe to have ready for next year. But that’s a story for another day.
Manic Seamstress Fashions For All?
As I have been in the process of researching and planning my Neo-Victorian wardrobe, I have reacquainted myself with pattern drafting techniques. My outfits have garnered so many requests for copies, that I will begin sewing a small boutique collection taken from my self-drafted patterns and designs copied from extant garments, dressmaking guides, and fashion plates of the time. These will be unique, one-of-a-kind items. My Neo-Victorian aesthetic is historically inspired, not historically accurate, nor do I make any pretense of historical accuracy.
Watch this space for future offerings as I make them available. I cannot accept requests for custom orders at this time.