Edited Transcripts

Amour! With Redgrrl Llewellyn

Viv Trafalgar Clears throat. Welcome to the fourth Aether Salon of Babbage!
For the past few months, we have reveled in some of the brightest and most amusing lights on the grid – discussing everything from curses to weapons, evil to lycans. We promise in the next six months to bring you even more witticisms and wisdom, as well as probably some exploding things.

Mark your calendars for Shimmy! in March, Submersibles! in April, Engines! in May, and Fey! in June. After a brief hiatus, we’ll return in September with Airships!, and have confirmation for October’s Haberdashery! extravaganza.

We’re keeping a log of things ‘overheard at the salon’ on aethersalon.blogspot.com – just in case you’re looking for a good laugh.

This month, we have a real treat – Amour! Beginning with a historical look at corsets ((please find Captain Llewellyn’s beautiful presentation here)) and ending with a wild auction of 15 of our friends’ great ideas for things to do on the grid.

This auction will support http://roomtoread.org (thanks Gus, great suggestion), and the Salon itself. Equally.

We appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community – and most especially our speakers and our auctionees. As you know, the speakers’ fund is given in its entirety to the speaker(s) at the end of each event. However, we will gratefully accept the lindens you leave in the auction coffers today, for roomtoread.org and the Salon. There are also Salon support broadsides just outside our gates. We will shut up about fundraising now.

We are very grateful as always to Miss Ceejay Writer, Miss Breezy Carver, Doc O, and Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the chairs. As well, I would in no way be here in front of you without the support of my dear Salon co-host Serafina Puchkina.
Please hold your questions until the end, and please observe common rules of etiquette – detatch HUDs and scripts; no biting, no mullets, and no weapons in the Salon. Please enjoy your afternoon with us and the wonderful Captain Red (who has promised not to violate the covenant), and don’t forget to bid often at the auction.

Redgrrl Llewellyn: Thank you dear Miss Trafalgar, I am honored to have been asked to speak about something that one might, in other times and in other cites, be categorized as unmentionable. However, being a forward moving community of free thinkers here in New Babbage and with so many Ladies who are devoted to Science, learning and fashion, it is then possible to mention and discuss that which supports and armors us ladies all….mainly that of our corsets, bustles and crinolines.

From reeds, whale bone, to steel strips, corsets have been our armor for thousands of years….(and some Gentlemen wore them, too!)..thank you for joining me in this brief tour of fashion history and the eccentricities of body modification for beauty and status.
I have a few tidbits of information to present and afterwards i shall be taking questions. Pray, take a moment to note the numbered illustrations I have placed about the salon those will be figuring in my presentation… [she smiles and gestures around in a sweeping manner] i have only 20 minutes to tell you about 2000 years in corsetry…so tighten your stays and gird your loins, it’s going to be a fast ride…

Thank you for your kind attention and please…pithy, amusing bon mots of the Babbage variety are always welcome but please do try and keep any salty talk, rude comments, or smoke bombs [gives a mock quelling glance to Bob and his fellow darling troublemakers] to yourself and far from this Salon.

For those ladies who are today tightly corseted and apt to swoon i suggest having your vinaigrette handy as I shall not be mincing words or candy coating this topic. Ahem!…[smiles demurely]

The corset, containing the French word corps for body, is a cinching garment that encases the middle torso to either push up or flatten the breasts, or to hug the waist into shape, or both. It is a fashion mainstay that has been in use in one form or another for thousands of years, but its roots can be traced to drawings discovered at the Neolithic archaeological site at Brandon in Norfolk, England.

Elina Koskinen: Oh…corsets, this shall be interesting…for disguise purposes.

Redgrrl Llewellyn: quite! [nods grinning] The drawings found depict women wearing bodices made from animal hides that are laced down the front. It’s suspected that these primitive corsets were fresh hides which were wrapped around the body and allowed to harden and mold snugly (hopefully not mould!) to their bodies.

Around 1700 BC, Minoans used corsets that were fitted and laced or a smaller corselette that left the breasts exposed. Because men are also depicted in artwork of that time period as having tiny waists, it is believed that they used belts to cinch their waists tight and traditionally, began on young boys in order to train their waists. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 1.)

In other ancient civilizations, corseted women were painted on pottery in Crete, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Assyria. Women in Egypt wore a band under their bust as part of their outward costume. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 2.)

((the illustrations will also be available on my blog after the Salon))

During the 13th and 14th centuries, free flowing dresses were replaced by dresses that utilized lacing to shape the garments closer to the body. These gowns were known as kirtles. Chaucer made reference to them in his tales, noting that they were made in varying colours and laced closely to the feminine form. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 3.)

With the advent of the growing silk industry in the 14th century, fabrics such as silk, brocade, velvet, and damask required a stronger, supported construction in order to reveal the body’s shape. The first artificial support was made in Italy, called a coche, and later became known as a busk in England. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 4.)
The 16th century costume was upheld as a symbol of position, rank, and wealth. The corset played a large part in displaying a person’s position. In the French court, under the influence of Italian-born Catherine de Medici, ladies in waiting were instructed to cinch their waists to a size no bigger than thirteen inches around. Even given the difference in average body size of a woman in modern times, thirteen inches would have been extreme!

In the royal court of Queen Elizabeth a similar garment was called a bodie a term later to become the word bodice. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 5.)

Viv Trafalgar: These etchings are very illuminating
Redgrrl Llewellyn: and not for the squeamish

Redgrrl Llewellyn: Queen Elizabeth had several pairs of bodies listed in her wardrobe accounts. The following listings, according to Janet Arnold (author of “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d”), most likely referred to a corset-like garment. • A payre of bodies of black cloth of silver with little skirts (1571), and a pair of bodies of sweete lether (1579) (Pray pause to glance at Figure 6. Elizabeth’s Effigy Corset)

Quite! …a handy reference…check your local library . It was also in the French court that a steel framework corset was introduced. Usually made up of four plates with perforation ornamental designs, they were connected at the sides and front while leaving the back open to get in and out of. Undoubtedly these were very good at deflecting arrows but not ideal for our modern magnets! (Pray pause to glance at Figure 7.)

Viv Trafalgar: steel? really?
Redgrrl Llewellyn: really. we have some extant examples of steel corsets because it lasts better than textiles but yes, steel.
Wiggy Undertone: That’s the first one that actually has some utility.
Redgrrl Llewellyn: During the 17th century, there was a space of time when politics across Europe demanded a less extravagant use of fabric. Along with a less-is-more-approach to fashion came the embellishment and fixation of the busk.
Pinkfeather Heron: I’ve heard some describe corsets as armor-like, but… 😉

Redgrrl Llewellyn: As seen on the left of Figure 8, The busk fit inside the front of the corset and was made from wood, ivory, metal, or whale bone. A young man might carve or purchase and elegant busk as a present for his heart’s fancy. I can imagine a Babbage man would create a very interesting busk…mayhap made of copper?
A working woman’s bodice at this time would be laced in the front…also called a jump and worn over a chemise. Mayhap the precursor to the term jumper? Also popular at this time were stays.

Pray glance again at Figure 8. The stays on the right are an extant example Circa 1700-1799. American colonial brown quilted cotton stays with center back lacing. Whalebone insets and lacing on the upper portion of the center front.

The advent of the 18th century and King Louis XIV of France’s reign saw a return of luxury, but only briefly. The Corps Baleine showed up on the scene and size and the width of the skirts diminished. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 9.)

Softpaw Sommer: tabbed corset! yeah

Redgrrl Llewellyn: The 19th century heralded changes in corsetry by leaps and bounds. During the Napoleonic Wars, a doctor with the French army invented a metallic eyelet. Eyelets added to corsets allowed them to be cinched even tighter without fear of damaging the fabric.

The 19th century heralded changes in corsetry by leaps and bounds. During the Napoleonic Wars, a doctor with the French army invented a metallic eyelet. Eyelets added to corsets allowed them to be cinched even tighter without fear of damaging the fabric.

Steam-molding also helped create a curvaceous contour. Introduced in the 1860s this was a process whereby once the corset was finished, it was heavily starched and dried and shaped on a ‘mannequin’ mould fed with steam. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 10.)

Ambrose Steampunk: but damaging the human!
Elfod Nemeth: spun

Redgrrl Llewellyn: we will be getting to that Mr. Steampunk… No wonder that these types of corsets were referred to as ‘cuirasse’ bodices. Just from looking at them one can see that they would have been restrictive garments, not allowing a great degree of freedom of movement. Moreover, the woman’s body was thrown forward by the rigidity of her underwear and high-heeled shoes to create a distorted shape.

The silhouette created by the this fashion for corsets, crinolettes and bustles gave rise to what was termed ‘The Grecian Bend’. The caricature in the cartoon from Punch gives an idea of the shape of the Grecian bend, although it has been exaggerated for satirical purposes. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 11.)

Pinkfeather Heron: what a graceful name for the shape 😉

Redgrrl Llewellyn: There were even worse accusations thrown against the corset. Journals such as the English Woman’s Domestic Magazine devoted space to a whole run of letters on the subject of tight lacing–some of which claimed that waists were reduced through corsetry to 15 inches and that girls were forced to wear corsets at night as well as during the daytime.

Bookworm Hienrichs winces.

Redgrrl Llewellyn: Doctors and medical writers cited countless diseases caused by corsets, which included consumption, curvature of the spine, rib displacement, cancer, hysteria, hunchback, abortion, melancholy and epilepsy. In addition, although corsets were considered by many to be good for the morals, they were also criticised for titillating qualities, especially when used in erotic literature. Ahem! [smiles demurely] (Pray pause to glance at Figure 12.)

Penelope Strathearn: ouch

Redgrrl Llewellyn: But one should take care when analysing these accusations. Although it is clear that some people laced their corsets very tightly, and there are horror stories of damage done to the internal organs, extreme tight-lacing was probably the exception rather than the rule. Many of the letters on the subject in the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine may have been written by fetishists or those trying to shock women out of wearing restrictive underwear.

Viv Trafalgar: that’s one Edgar Allen Poe story I’d love to see – Trapped In A Corset
Softpaw Sommer: been there done that when I couldn’t find someone to unlace me after Faire
Jedburgh30 Dagger: The tell-tale underwear

Redgrrl Llewellyn: Jed…[grins] Nevermore! In our more enlightened age we now have the Electric Corset with embeded magnets that help adjust our humours. [grins wryly] The most important myth I would like to dispel about modern Victorian corsetry is that tight-lacing is the norm. There is a oft-quoted myth that some Victorian ladies often have ribs removed in order to draw their waists smaller.

While small waists are the desired end, and fashionable women do indeed go to extremes, I want you to think about the likelihood of someone surviving abdominal surgery ((before the invention of antibiotics)). To be clear, modern doctors would rather amputate a limb rather than remove a bullet or fix a compound fracture! The idea that anyone removes ribs from a Lady *and they lived* is just ludicrous.(Pray pause to glance at Figure 13.)

Also the idea that tight-lacing deformed women is just nonsense. The area of your body that is compressed by tight-lacing are the soft bits — your abdominal area and the cartlidge-heavy floating ribs. All these things take compression very well….they’re made to compress when you’re with child. And a lady can tight-lace for years and stop and expect to return to nomal within days if not hours. In scientific terms, it’s all squishy so it just squishes back into place. Is very scientific [nods]

In our modern Victorian period, there is this idea in advertising that women have weak spines and that they need corsetry to be able to support their own weight. It’s ridiculous, of course, but it probably has its origins in the fact that 18th century stays support the lower back. Our modern Victorian corsets don’t. This didn’t stop corsets from being worn by all strata of society. It just wouldn’t do to be a “loose woman” and one would always want to be “straight laced”

Augustus Dayafter: heh

Redgrrl Llewellyn: Also to be noted, whalebone isn’t bone. It’s a keratinous material…like your fingernails. It is more properly called “baleen” because it is the mouth filters of the Baleen Whale. It’s flexible and forms to shape when warmed to body temperature. A corset boned with baleen are light and flexible, not the heavy, harsh thing that steel-boned corsets are.

((for repro reeds do the best they warm and bend and are natural…i don’t use anything synthetic in my designs…but I’m odd that way)) As for the bustle, though some say they are going out of favour…we now have the ‘The New Phantom’ bustle, ((dating from about 1884)), which has a special feature. (Pray pause to glance at Figure 14.) The steel wires are attaches to a pivot so that they fold in on themselves on sitting down and spring back when the wearer rises. And to leave you with an amusing and musical note a novelty bustle has been made to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations containing a less useful device. It is fitted with a musical box that plays ‘God Save the Queen’ each time the wearer sits down!

Pinkfeather Heron: if it plays “god save the queen” every time one sits down, does that mean everyone else must stand?
Kordite Eizenberg: Would it not be more proper to stand for “God Save the Queen”. A release trigger would be necessary.

Redgrrl Llewellyn: i am sorry i could not find an example of that bustle to share with you….but we have so many designers here…. Thank you for your kind attention and if there are any questions, pray…do not hesitate to ask. ((a slightly longer version of this talk along with the illustrations and all my references will be published on my personal blog. http://celtgrrl.blogspot.com/ available now ))

Viv Trafalgar: We have a few minutes to take a couple questions
Ambrose Steampunk raises his hand with a question
Viv Trafalgar: before the auction
Viv Trafalgar: Mr. Steampunk
Remington Thursday: Thank you, red, for a very well rounded lesson. I actually worked with corsets and bodices professionally for a bit. I am glad to hear you dispel some of the common myths regarding them.
Ambrose Steampunk: Yes the uses of corsets if fairy tales… didn’t the queen in Snow White use a corset to try and kill her?
Redgrrl Llewellyn: They have been stuff of fairy tales and myths for thousands of yeas…a broken steel stay could kill you but rarely did
Viv Trafalgar: Other questions?
Redgrrl Llewellyn: girds her loins
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: when ya go to the toilet does the corset get looser?
Redgrrl Llewellyn: no dear….
Viv Trafalgar: >Facepalms<
Pinkfeather Heron: unless you’re wearing a bladder corset??
Viv Trafalgar: any OTHER questions?
Jedburgh30 Dagger: when you go to the bathroom does your hat get looser?
Viv Trafalgar: Jed FTW
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: sometimes
Redgrrl Llewellyn: well only when he goes IN his hat
Ghilayne Andrew says in calm tones, “Bob, the corset does not extend to the lower extremities of anatomy such that it would make a difference.”
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: but if yer belly is full surly when it empties the corset would fall off
Viv Trafalgar: Thank you Red!
Pinkfeather Heron: I have a question! did men historically wear corsets, ever?
Elina Koskinen: Yes…did they…?
Redgrrl Llewellyn: one could loosen one’s stays if need be….now onto the auction!

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