Can you flop in a corset?

My critique group had a lively discussion the other night about whether or not one of my characters could “flop” backward onto her bed. Their argument could best be summed up as, “Have you ever worn a corset?”

Most of this group is into writing erotic romances so corsets have a whole different purpose in their genre, and I didn’t dig into the specifics. Still, their feedback is always useful as it gives me insight into how the passage would be seen by a reader with her own preconceived notion of what a woman could or could not do in a corset.

In the end, I ended up changing the character’s action to avoid the issue. However, in defense of my original verb, here are some things to keep in mind:

18th century stays were different than later versions. I grew up thinking of stays and corsets as the same thing, imaging Scarlet O’Hara clinging to her bedpost while her maid tried to achieve a seventeen inch waist.  Earlier stays were intended more to give the torso a conical shape than to narrow the waist.

My character is also a farmer’s daughter and definitly of the working class. If she wore stays, I could imagine her wearing something that was intended more for back support than for style. I  imagine it might be similar to a modern weight belt as that seems to be the most useful, but I have yet to find an historical example of one. (I always see the St. Pauli girl logo in my mind, but I have no idea how historically accurate that image is!)

One of my favorite historical blogs is Two Nerdy History Girls. (I like it because they admit to being nerdy history girls and they are romance authors as well!) They have an excellent piece showing what a late 18th century female blacksmith’s apprentice might wear. It’s hard to tell if this gal is wearing stays, but I’m certain they aren’t the full version so many of us picture in our mind’s eye.

As always, my research continues….


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