Tries to have a good time in history’s most no­to­ri­ously un-fem­i­nist cloth­ing item

The Kit - - THEKIT.CA -

Fif­teen min­utes into my test drive of one of fall’s hottest trends, I’m sweat­ing, swear­ing and scream­ing loudly enough to ter­rify all my neigh­bours. Silly me: When I de­cided to slip into a corset to hit up a fancy cock­tail party in hon­our of an up-and-com­ing de­signer, I was pic­tur­ing Ri­hanna ca­su­ally sporting a corset belt on top of a PJ top while on a date with Drake—I thought repli­cat­ing her look would be as easy as mak­ing a Drake meme. (Note to self: Never equate your­self with a liv­ing icon.) Un­like Ri’s Chanel cincher, mine is a torso-flat­ten­ing satin num­ber that hits just below my breasts. The look doesn’t work: My butt is way big­ger, and the corset cre­ates a lit­eral shelf in the worst way pos­si­ble when lay­ered over a vin­tage silk but­ton-down. Worst of all, hav­ing only hap­haz­ardly lis­tened to the care­ful dressing in­struc­tions from North­bound Leather while pick­ing up said corset, I have be­come trapped inside the hard cas­ing of one of fem­i­nism’s first wear­able foes.

Be­fore ac­tivists burned their bras in the ’60s, the corset was suf­fragette en­emy num­ber one. Shap­ing the ideal fe­male fig­ure since the early 1600s, the corset be­came down­right danger­ous near the end of the 19th cen­tury, when the “wasp waist” (a scary waist mea­sure­ment of 14 to 17 inches) be­came fash­ion­able. De­formed ribs and dis­lo­cated or­gans were only a few of the side ef­fects, which led to protests and, ul­ti­mately, bondage bodices be­ing aban­doned for the looser styles of the 1920s. Since fall­ing from grace, the corset has crept back into fashion a few times (all hail Madonna’s larger-than-life cone-bra corset in the mid ’90s, by way of de­signer Jean Paul Gaultier). But its reap­pear­ance on this fall’s run­ways at Prada, Loewe and Bal­main is di­rectly re­lated to the Kar­dashi­ans and their pop­u­lar­iza­tion of waist-train­ers. While their shap­ing abil­i­ties have yet to be proven, the Kim-ap­proved con­trap­tions have be­come syn­ony­mous with the oth­er­worldly curves so sought af­ter to­day.

But back to me and my reg­u­lar curves. Fi­nally, I break free of the corset, swap­ping the orig­i­nal pair­ing for my favourite see-through vin­tage neg­ligée (I’m now of­fi­cially go­ing for sexy witch) and, in­fu­ri­at­ingly, I can’t get the damn thing back on. Af­ter man­ag­ing to knock over sev­eral items on my dresser with the bones of the corset—which when half done up, stand stiffly out at at­ten­tion—I’m fi­nally ready. With dou­ble-lay­ered hoops and heeled san­dals, my fi­nal look is The Craft meets ’90s prom. I’m not dis­pleased. I head out in the pour­ing rain and can’t en­ter my Uber with­out as­sis­tance. I re­mem­ber that his­tor­i­cally, women weren’t ac­corded much of a life, which to­tally makes sense in this awk­ward mo­ment.

In a time rich in fem­i­nist di­a­logue, the corset’s cur­rent re­turn seems par­tic­u­larly pro­found. Or maybe I’m too hun­gry to be think­ing clearly. Af­ter the party, de­spite the fact that a corset is truly a no-sit item, I sug­gest grab­bing a late din­ner. But once set­tled at a no-frills pho restau­rant with my friends, I find eat­ing past full (as is my usual style) im­pos­si­ble. So like a Vic­to­rian lady, I leave some food on my plate.

“Af­ter man­ag­ing to knock over sev­eral items on my dresser with the bones of the corset, I’m fi­nally ready.”

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