Saturday, November 3, 2012

Victorian corsets, Part 2: the Cold Iron Hand

I don' t know what it is, but in the last few years I've become enraptured with pictures of Victorian women in beautiful dresses.

Is this my gay side, or what? Or do I want to BE them? I would imagine the undergirdings for such gorgeous gowns would be uncomfortable, to say the least.

Does it get any more elegant? Do we have anything to compare to this today, except maybe in a period movie or a stage play?

Period costumes - hell, no one does it better than Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence.

Memorable quote: "The corsets are a tremendous help to the performance, because you're playing a repressed person and you can feel the pain that they endured. My waist had to be 19 inches and they had to measure me every day. I would be on the floor and they would pull the strings until it was 19 inches. . . But if I did it again I would want it the same way because it made my performance."

What takes a little thunder out of this is the fact that Winona's waist was probably about 20 inches to begin with.

Now isn't this nice? It's one of those fainting couches. Makes you want to run out and buy one.  (Is that a cigarette I see in her hand??)

You didn't have to diet then. If you had overindulged or gained a few pounds, you just pulled the laces in a little tighter, et voila - a beautiful waist that a man could span with his two hands. It's proven by this shot of a woman in everyday dress whose waist has been reduced to a thread. This is probably a simple everyday outfit that somehow looks extremely elegant.

Looks like a Seurat painting, but it's real.

Ethel Barrymore, with roses stuck all over her.

From an interview with Karin Cartlidge (star of The Cherry Orchard) in the London Times:

"These bloody corsets do a lot for repression: I nearly fainted in one. I find them quite sexy; actually, it's a funny sort of thing. They hold you in like a cold iron hand round your heart, therefore all your emotions just seethe away underneath it. It's like being in a sort of prison and it's quite exciting, there's something erotic about it."

OK. . .

What about Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, being slowly and sadistically
driven crazy by Charles ("come wiz me to zee Casbah") Boyer? Sadomasochism. . . insanity. . . corsets. . . I'm ready to kvell.

This is one of those eerily crystalline Victorian-era photographs that depicts middle-class women out for a stroll in their ordinary clothes, which nonetheless look gorgeous. My goodness, I love those dresses: the proportions were always perfect, and the hats added height and style.

    Another quote. . . from some anonymous
actress in The Buccaneers: "For the first two weeks it is unbearable in the
corsets. Now I put it on, and I'm saying, 'Tighten me in more, tighten me in more!' and they're saying 'Your corset is meeting! We can't!"

Goodness. Now I see why they're coming back (mainly as a fetish item, but soon the world will catch up and realize this is the ultimate diet aid).

We couldn't do this slightly bizarre post without Miz Scahhlett and her green barbecue dress, probably the most fetching thing she wore in that interminable costume melodrama. Certainly better than that red rag she was forced to wear to that, you know, thingammy, that thingamajigger where she was supposed to be publicly acknowledging she was an adulteress when in truth she hadn't even given Ashley a hickey.

Though not for lack of trying.

In this scene, I assume war has just been declared (or "woah, woah, woah", as Scarlett put it). Men are running back and forth in a blur and colliding with each other, or maybe those guys are conjoined twins joined at the ear.

Lina Cavalieri, who could throw on just about anything and look
amazing. Oh well, maybe I AM gay.
Why is it, though - I just had this thought, and it was strange - I've never heard a gay woman rhapsodize over any item of apparel or anything to do with fashion. It's funny cuz they're supposed to like women and notice women and be turned on by women. But it's gay men who do all the rhapsodizing. It's weird.
Maybe I'm a gay man?


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

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