Friday, November 15, 2013

Fashion Was Easier When Women Wore Corsets, and Other Historical Tidbits: 7 Quick Takes (Volume VII)


Modern life is full of luxuries. This point was brought home to me when I read a 1970’s edition of Dr. Spock’s childcare advice. He comments that a new mother should invest in a fully automatic washer and dryer if at all possible. I am so glad that I don’t have to hand wash all of baby’s diapers plus the regular laundry!

However, we women have given up some things that we should probably have kept.

For example, nowadays we have to wear high heels to elongate our figures and appear more striking. High heels are uncomfortable. They can mess with your feet. They can make you trip and break your ankle. They sink into damp turf and make you walk like an idiot.

Back in the day, women could add a bit of height without pinching their toes: they wore hats! Marvelous hats. Feathered hats, wool hats, gauzy hats, all kinds of hats. Personally, I think that good hats add a lot to a woman’s dignity (or would, if they would come back into mainstream fashion).


Throughout human history, form-fitting clothes were only “in” during periods when women wore the ultimate shapewear: corsetry. In decades when corsets were “out,” the clothes hung loose.

Look at this evidence:

Why on earth did modern ladies decide that we should foreswear supportive undergarments and yet also adopt skin-tight clothing? It’s all a conspiracy of fitness gyms, I guess. They want our money.


On a bit of a side note, HERE is an interesting article about the new archeological evidence for medieval lingerie. 


Most people are familiar with the Parable of the Talents, and with the modern application of the word “talent” (which was money in the New Testament context) to our own personal abilities. Apparently we owe this application to the poet John Milton.

Wikipedia tells us about the word’s original meaning:

A talent (from Ancient Greek τάλαντον, talanton 'scale, balance') was a unit of weight of about 80 pounds (36 kg), and when used for money, it was the value of that weight of silver. As a unit of currency, it was worth about 6,000 denarii. Since a denarius was the usual payment for a day's labour, a talent was roughly the value of twenty years of work by an ordinary person.

And the word’s modern meaning (again, from Wikipedia):

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus' disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities ("talents" in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one's gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgement.
 The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense), referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness:”

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent, which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he, returning, chide 
 This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word "talent" used for an aptitude or skill.


Interested in Michelangelo? Read about his “Prisoner Graffiti” and how it sheds light on the great artist's whereabouts during a time of conflict. 


There is a lot of discussion going on about the Common Core and the history of American education. As an alternative, here is an interesting article on “Why Classical Schools Just Might Save America.”


I wish I knew more about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. During college I read a book about the political side of the tragic struggle, but I don’t have a sense of what it was like to live through. If I did, it might help me better appreciate my current read: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His book is both a strange kind of mystery and a coming of age story. The mystery part, I like. The coming of age part is hard to relate to—it’s well written, but a bit too sexual for me. Has anyone read it? Will I be glad if I finish it? 

Linking up with Conversion Diary!


  1. Hi there. Just stopping over from 7QT. Total agreement here re: hats and corsets. Fashion today is so out of touch with reality. Too bad Spanx are so expensive tho. :-(

    1. Yes (on the expense side)-- plus, modern shape wear isn't custom made the way a corset would be.

  2. You must read this article (and go to the woman's blog/book site)! It is fascinating--she started wearing a Victorian corset full time and lost tons of weight, and has this great outlook on life. (And her fashion sense is certainly unique!)

    1. I love the article! I did Civil War reenacting, and we were always having to defend our corsets to the public. :-) I can relate to a lot of the things the lady says here. I must admit that it was nice to take the corset off at the end of the day, though, just because I wasn't used to wearing something that close-fitting.

  3. I wish corsets were still more than just a novelty item! And I love hats - I have a few that I wear for church and a couple that I wear out but I'm pretty much the only person I know who wears anything more than a winter hat!

  4. Love all the fantastic vintage ads! I always debate whether or not I'd actually enjoy wearing a corset - I think I'd like the outcome, but I don't know if I'd want to be that uncomfy.

    I've been wearing hats to mass a fair amount lately, mostly because I sleep too late and don't have time to do my hair, and a hat always helps to put the classy back into my outfit. =)

  5. I loved Shadow of the Wind, but I listened to it on audiobook and the author composed his own score to play in the background of certain emotional/intense parts. Maybe that sways my bias, but if you're curious you can follow this link:

    1. What an interesting concept! I've heard of writing to the sound of certain soundtracks, but not of reading to them.

  6. Great informative blog.I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this information.

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