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My Writer's Journal

Tight Corsets and Other Miseries

Beginning when Marie-Antoinette was a little girl, just old enough to walk, she had to wear stays, a sort of corset made of cloth stiffened with strips of wood, later with wire or bone. This was to assure that her skeleton was properly aligned, but mostly to make sure she had a tiny waist. By the time she married at 14, the grand corps was drawn so tight she could hardly breathe and barely eat more than a mouthful. And she was required to wear it all the time, except when she slept. When she rebelled, it caused a scandal in the French court.

My mother didn't wear a corset, but she did wear a girdle, a rubber garment with plastic stays. The idea was to hold your stomach in and your stockings up, but also to disguise the fact that you had rear cleavage. A proper girl had a smooth butt. The happiest moment of my mother's day was when she could take the thing off. I dreaded the time when I'd have to wear one. Somehow I never did.

Next week: Queenly Make-Up
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