Posts tagged #costuming

My ConFusion 2015 Schedule

This Thursday, I'm headed to fabulous Detroit for ConFusion, which is without a doubt my favorite annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention.

Here's where you can find me at the con:

5PM Friday - What About Peaceful Societies? - Erie Room
Utopias are often described to be perfect, peaceful societies. Peaceful societies in Sci-Fi are almost without fail a reference to enforced peace and a situation to be escaped from - the dystopic novel. But what happens to peaceful societies that aren't part of a dystopia world? Can any society truly be peaceful? And what's the conflict worth writing about in an inherently peaceful society?

10AM Sat - We Have Alwats Fought (In Real Armor) - Michigan Room
When it comes to armor, women in genre fiction tend to get the short end of--well, everything. We’ll look at real women’s armor from history through the present day, and discuss how to design science fiction and fantasy armor for women that’s as impressive as it is protective.

5PM Sat - Clothing Your Characters - Warren Room
They say ‘clothes make the man,’ but they also make his physical and social world. Help our panel of writers and costumers build and dress a fictional world, and learn how you can use costume details to enhance the depth and verisimilitude of your work.

7PM Sat - The Masquerade!
I'm helping out behind the scenes at this year's masquerade. If you're coming and you're into costumes, I really encourage you to enter--we have an excellent lineup of judges, and our prizes include a free ticket to next year's ConFusion. It's a great show.

11AM Sun - Costuming From Ink and Pixel - Allen Park Room
From anime to comic books to CGI and video games, animated worlds are full of iconic, stylish characters. But it often takes a little work to translate their costumes into the real world. Come learn how to examine your source material to choose the right fabric, colors, and construction techniques to bring your favorite animated characters to life.

ConFusion has a reputation for taking good care of guests and putting on a great con. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with friends from cons past and meeting fabulous new people.

Will I see you there?

Posted on January 14, 2015 .

All comments are subject to my Comment Policy.

Corset Sizing and Those Horrible Victorians

Corset Illustration, ca 1878
Corset Illustration, ca 1878

While bopping around the net doing costuming research, I came across an old gem courtesy of the BBC: that it was common for young Victorian girls to have waist sizes in inches equal to or smaller than their ages. This myth is usually (though, to the BBC's credit, not in this case) accompanied by an assertion that young Victoriennes achieved these sizes with the aid of rib-breaking, respiratory-distress-inducing, organ-rearranging undergarments. Let's all cross ourselves and be glad that we're forward-thinking and enlightened, unlike those terrible Victorians.

Except that popular 'facts' about the risks and discomforts associated with Victorian corsetry are incredibly exaggerated.

In the first place, it's important to keep in mind that Victorian corsets were sized before their lacing was taken into account. Just because there are extant 16" corsets does not mean that the girls wearing them had 16" waists--they could have increased the size by four inches or more through lacing. Indeed, given that we don't have a bunch of extant outerwear sized for a sixteen inch waist, it's very likely if not certain that that's exactly what they did.

Yes, it's entirely true that there were girls in the Victorian era who went to great lengths, even to the point of harming themselves, to reduce their waist size. We've got people like that now, too. It's just that the Victorians didn't have nearly as sophisticated a construct built up around the relationship between weight, exercise, and diet. "Tightlacing," as it was called, was to the Victorian Era what disordered eating is to ours: a problem? yes. Something that's often written about, as if stern warnings are all it takes to prevent self-harm? Quite. Universal? Not hardly.

Records of the day do indeed indicate that corsets, especially when laced too tightly, could cause short-term health problems, such as indigestion. They were also blamed for pregnancy problems, but it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to work that one out. They did not, however, cause widespread and debilitating breathing problems, rampant fainting, or a rash of broken ribs. "Fainting couch" is a modern term, and the plays and novels from which that part of the myth emerged are no more an accurate representation of Victorian life than soaps and sitcoms are accurate representations of modern life. Victorian women faced a great deal of oppression, but they were not, as a general rule, inclined towards subjecting themselves to crippling pain and debilitating restriction on a daily basis.

The truth about Victorian corsets is that when sized properly, they were actually fairly comfortable (this coming from someone who's actually worn one for a day at a go). Keeping in mind that this is before the invention of the bra, I imagine that abstaining from wearing a corset might have been the uncomfortable thing for many women. While it's pretty much a given that radically altering your shape through external compression is going to be less than comfortable, the practice was both less common and less extreme than we imagine it to be.

Don't trust a story where it's taken as read that women of corset-wearing eras are weak, fainting tight-lacers too vain or foolish to wear clothes that fit them properly. (Yeah, I'm looking right at you, Pirates of the Carribean; where the heck you got off presenting Keira freakin' Knightley as someone improved by tightlacing is beyond me, but it was lazy and gross). I especially don't trust stories where women except the protagonist or love interest are portrayed that way. If the remarkable feature of your leading lady is that she's risen above the icky stain of girliness to attain manly good sense and depth of character, I've got no time for your faux girlpower.

And while we're on the subject of entirely untrue things about Victorians: They may have covered up a lot, but the curve-hugging silhouette of the later part of the Victorian era left very little to the imagination. The notion that they covered piano legs to keep men from getting aroused by them is a total myth, derived from a satirical piece written by a Brit lambasting American puritanism. It predates the Victorian era.

Posted on August 6, 2012 .

All comments are subject to my Comment Policy.