Recently, I began following a couple of Tumblr blogs focusing on waist training and daily corset wear. Daily wear is not for me, waist training even less so, but I find it an interesting practice. It is also a controversial one. For example, a recent Huffington Post article, “Corset Queen Penny Brown Loves Getting ‘Waisted’,” drew comments which were nearly all extremely negative, as do most articles that bring the practice to mainstream attention. Usually, the mental states of the women who waist-train are called into question, and there are numerous references to feminism as incompatible with corsets. The general idea is that the first wave feminists of the late 19th and early 20th century would be horrified by women today wearing them, and that their assumed reaction is an objective statement on the practice.
My feeling is that the subject is complex, and cannot be simply declared feminist or unfeminist. There are far more factors than the average internet commenter allows for.
Video: Revealing Garments: A Brief History of Women’s Underwear
Underwear takes the stage in this talk by H. Kristina Haugland, associate curator of Costume and Textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The history of feminine undergarments—corsets and drawers, bustles and brassieres, stockings and shoulder pads—reflects changing ideals of women’s figures and societal roles, and reveals that ideas of beauty, hygiene, modesty and respectability are both remarkably transitory and enlightening. Drawing from works of art, advertisements, cartoons, literary sources and surviving garments, this generously illustrated lecture enhances the understanding of past and present attitudes and aesthetics. Supported in part by the Art Institute of Indianapolis.