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Sitting in a Regency Corset July 23, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing.
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9 comments

If you missed Living in a Regency Corset, posted earlier in the week, click here.  To the scads (and scads) of folks who’ve already visited that post, THANK YOU, and welcome to Sitting in a Regency Corset.

First off, allow me to say that standing and walking while laced in a Regency corset is an absolute delight. 

Sitting… not so much. 

So, if you don’t mind, let us first indulge in the delightful.

If I could get away with wearing my Regency corset everyday, I promise you, I would.  (There I am on the right, peticoat over my corset) Not only does lady-like posture become a no-brainer — shoulders back, spine straight, tummy tucked — the weight of your upper body is automatically transferred to your hips, bypassing the lower back.  I’ve spent hours dancing quadrilles, reels and cotillions while corseted (below, right), and nary a back complaint have I faced.  Gliding along is the only way I know to describe it. 

But sadly, today’s fashions brook no tolerance for the armpit level bust a Regency corset produces.  Nor do low-slung bucket seats and soft-seated chairs allow for an unbendable lady.

And that’s exactly what you become while wearing a Regency corset.  Unbendable.

The inch wide wooden (or ivory) busk is to blame, you see, running from breast to just below the navel.  That, and the six companioning lengths of boning, four running down the back with one governing each side. 

Bending at the waist is simply not an option.  

Which brings us to the heart of this post; sitting in a Regency corset.  

It is an art form best practiced in private, which is why there are no pictures.   In today’s modern world, we employ leverage to sit.  Regency ladies used their thighs.  It’s easier than it sounds, I promise you.  The key is…well, here, I’ll let Lady Grace, intrepid time-traveler, enigma extraordinaire, and handler of my 21st century heroine, do the teaching.

From Love’s Freedom (where Sara would rather believe her 19th century experience is a nightmarish dream courtesy of a fall ending with a blow to the head, than face the truth.)

     Sara shook her head.  “Quit babbling and send me home.  Or wake me up.  Or do whatever it is you need to do to fix this.”

     “I see I must speak more plainly.”  Grace pulled out the vanity chair and pointed at the round pink cushion.  “Sit.”

     Tamping down exasperation, Sara collected the yards of fabric clamoring around her bare feet, then squeezed between the vanity’s marble top and the chair, her torso stiff as a board.

     “Oh no, dear, don’t sit in the chair.  Sit upon it.  That’s right, touch the backs of your knees to the edge, center yourself, then lower straight down upon the seat.  There, much better.”  Grace flashed a smile at her in the oval mirror, added a motherly pat, then pulled a jeweled blade out from between her own breasts.  “Now, where was I?”

 A few pages later, Sara is standing in her reluctant hero’s cavernous foyer that’s been closed up for months.  Surrounded by his curious servants hastily removing Holland covers from the lavish furniture, she faces thwarted plans and lots of dust.  Another thing you might need to know.  During the Regency, shoes made no allowance for left and right feet. They had to be worn to make them comfortable.

      “Milady.”  Peg appeared at her side, a frivolously feathered bonnet in hand, and pressed a pair of lady-like gloves into hers.  Gripping the soft leather, Sara considered the sweeping staircase leading back to her rooms.  Forcing the Lord of Wayfair to face his PTSD when more desirable work commanded his attentions would be a waste of effort.  They could talk at the picnic. 

     The chocolate brown bonnet in Peg’s hands came to rest on her head.  “I am sorry for my lateness,” the girl whispered, swiftly tying the bonnet’s soft velvet ribbon beneath her right ear.  “But I returned for these.”  The girl produced a pair of slightly worn ankle boots. 

    “Bless you, Peg.”  Shucking the tortuous slippers, Sara bent to pick them up, the corset’s unyielding busk issuing a harsh reminder that Lady Ashland would do no such thing.  Neither would she be pulling on those soft leather boots for herself. 

     Her feet hurt too much to care.

     Peg motioned her to a large gilded chair a pair of footmen had just uncovered.   More dust clouded the air and suddenly she sneezed, the ruling busk making even that task difficult.  Every eye on her again, the sounds of her sneeze echoed through the cavernous room as Peg pressed a lace kerchief into her hands and she tried hard not to wring it while struggling to remember the steps to sitting upon a chair, not in it.  The backs of her knees making contact, the ensuing and highly observed effort proved more worthy of a beached whale.  Or a woman in her ninth month.  But at least her feet didn’t go flying over her head. 

As to what a Regency corset does to a well-endowed woman’s décolletage while she is sitting… I’ll leave that to your imagination.  😉

Hugs,

Nina

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Living in a Regency Corset July 19, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Writing, Writing Life.
Tags: , , ,
7 comments

Yup, I’ve spent time in a Regency Corset.  Days, in fact.   It is true; we writers will do the craziest of things to empathize with the characters living in our heads.  And since I can’t locate a time-traveler willing to drop me off in 1815 England,  where I’ve relocated my 21st century heroine, I made a corset. 

Well, actually my mom made it for me.  There it is on the left, with me in it.  That little stripped beauty is more comfortable than it looks, if you don’t mind not being able to bend at the waist, are willing to give up the right to raise your shoulders and (in my case) see your feet when you look down.

Without doubt, wearing a Regency corset proved to me that the world has changed.  First off, dressing in private, as we do now, was definitely not a luxury enjoyed by women during the Regency.  It really does require a lady’s maid (or a sister, aunt, or willing friend) to work those laces up your back.   But, freeing one’s self from its boned confines is entirely possible without the help of a sexy hero, much to his chagrin.   Though it is always advisable to play nice because you will need him come morning, if you plan to get dressed. 

So, what does if feel like to be laced up in a Regency corset? 

I think I’ll let my poor, unfortunate, relocated (or would that be dislocated) 21st century heroine, Sara Kensington, field that one.

From Loves Freedom

     “M’lady, please” Peg murmured, “be still.”  The corset strings pulled tighter.  Sara turned back to the mirror before her, the boned garment claiming her attention as it slimmed her hips.

     “You must lift your arms, now,  if I’m to complete the lacing.”

     Sara mutely obeyed, watching her tummy flatten, her hourglass waist grow narrower, and her DD’s globe out from the shallow cups like two ripe honeydews destined to be plucked from the grocer’s self.  “Peg.  This can’t be —“

     “I’m sorry, m’lady.”  Peg went to her knees and began tugging the undergarment’s knee-length hem.  “The chemise has risen out of place.  I’ve not worked with one quite so fine as this.”  She continued tugging.  “I’ll have the right of it in a moment.”  And the garment’s wide neckline kept slipping, to just above her areoles. 

     Peg popped up in front of her and grinned, brightly.  “There now.  His lordship should be rightly pleased by that.” 

     Sara nearly flushed to her toes. 

     Peg kept going; flipping the corset’s offset straps forward, threading the ribbons at the ends through small holes near the shallow cups.  Then she tugged, sending Sara’s shoulders straight back, intensifying his lordship’s preferred globing affect.  Sara rapped the ruler thick piece of wood, now pressed between her breasts and running to just below her navel.  “Do you wish your ivory busk?” Peg asked, tying the restraining straps off in two neat bows

    “Nope.”  Ivory or wood, there’d be no bending at the waist, today.  Hopefully, when she tried to sit down at breakfast, she didn’t go flat on her back with legs flying up in the air. 

Tune in next time for Sitting in a Regency Corset.

Until then, what crazy thing have you done for your art just so you could get it right?  Do tell.  This inquiring mind wants to know.