I want to write about something rather different today. I occasionally post about personal issues, but hardly ever write about confidence and body positivity.
I enjoy historical clothing — learning about it, drawing it (sort of), and the idea of wearing it (the cost for the small amount of use keeps me from actually doing so). However, the more I learn about historical clothing, the more I feel society has done itself a major disservice, especially for women.
You only have to jump back 70 years to find a time when shaping undergarments weren’t an optional wardrobe item, but an expected part of daily life.
History is rife with undergarments meant to provide women with the fashionable body shape of the day. Corsets, petticoats, girdles, panniers, bust pads, butt pads, the list goes on. On top of these — quite literally — clothing was designed to accentuate the desirable shape.
What wasn’t expected, however, was for your natural body to match the ever-changing ideal shape of the day. Somehow, since then, society has adopted an expectation that we change our actual bodies as quickly as we change fashions.
Oh, sure, you can wear shape-wear, but padding — other than padded/push-up bras — is seen as silly. Why do we poo-poo any non-invasive attempt to meet society’s ever-changing and often impossible-to-meet standards? Yet we laud restrictive diets, surgery, and punishing workouts.
Even our fashions have betrayed us. It’s now more expensive to get an item of clothing tailored to fit you than it is to buy the item, even with quality pieces. You’re effectively paying twice for a garment because your body isn’t an unrealistic “average.”
For those of us who fall outside of fashion’s “average” sizes, choice is significantly curtailed. For millennia, clothing larger or smaller than the norm was the same design, just sized up or down. If historical court gowns can be sized up for plus sized bodies, then anything can.
But where did this expectation come from? I don’t really know, perhaps from the popularization of bathing suits, since you can’t wear anything under them. But, somewhere in time, we let ourselves be lied to. We got told that corsets were evil torture devices — the ones I’ve worn were significantly more comfortable than bras. We were told our bodies should match society’s expectations — how can a properly functioning, healthy body keep up? It’s not clay to be remolded as seen fit. We were told surgery was better than wearing shapewear — no invasive procedures for me, thanks.
We need to de-program. Ignore the stupid magazines that make more money when you dislike yourself. Unfollow the “body goals” accounts on social media that edit their photos to make you feel bad about yourself. Silence the petty and uniformed people that try to tell you you shouldn’t like yourself.
Don’t treat your body like a garment to be worn for a while, then changed as soon as a different style comes into fashion. You deserve better than to dislike yourself.
You don’t have to love your body, you can be indifferent to it. You can decorate it — with clothes, makeup, tattoos, and/or piercings to your heart’s content. Take a leaf out of your ancestors’ books and adapt your clothing to fit yourself, rather than trying to make your body fit the clothes.
OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Want to learn more?
- Revealing Garments A Brief History Of Women’s Underwear
- 500 years of Women’s Underwear History
- 500 Years of Women’s Hoops, Crinolines, Bustles, & Bums (aka the history of the skirt)
- Why were Victorian Hips Controversial?
- 500 Years of Women’s Corsets, Stays, and Bras | A Dress Historian Explains Bustlines & Necklines
- Reacting to the “History of the Corset” || Busting (very weird) corset myths
- Reacting to Vogue’s “Everything You Need to Know About the Corset” cause we haven’t suffered enough.
- Corsets weren’t torture, they’re just bras . . . how many of us LIKE our bras???
- Comparing Modern to Victorian Corsets (and why not all corsets are ok)
- Regency Corset Shapes || Comparing 4 Styles on the Same Body
- 100 Years of Corset History: How 8 Corsets affect the same body
- Are Corsets and The Body Positivity Movement Connected? (ft. a 140 year old cookie recipe!)
- How the Victorians Faked Tiny Waists (without fainting!)
- How Flappers got their Figure: the 1920s Silhouette
- A Fashion Historian Explains the History of the Handbag
- My Favorite Book Recommendations for Fashion History
- The History of Standardized Sizes in Womens Fashion and Why They FAILED
- Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion, from Roman Times to the Modern Era by Karen Bowman
- Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
- Elegant Etiquette in the Nineteenth Century by Mallory James
Do you agree, or do you think I’m off my rocker? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.