Why do "vintage bodies" differ so much from our modern bodies?
It seems like most sources (like this one) will have us believe that what we eat and how much is primarily to blame for the increased size (height, weight, measurements) in modern women, and while I agree, I think we're missing something else.
Most women of the past didn't just naturally have wasp waists, just like none of us normal, non-January-Jones-women do today. A common idea is that the shape of clothing - large skirts, or broad shoulders, etc. - gave the illusion of a tiny waist, and while that is true, it doesn't account for the undressed, tiny-waisted measurements of vintage women.
So what does?
All of you are familiar with the Victorian preoccupation with the tiny waist, and that some women practiced tight lacing for the purpose of narrowing their waists. This displaced organs and deformed the ribcage to such an extent that it caused all kinds of health problems. A recent article on The Pragmatic Costumer's blog talks about the history of this practice, and points to a couple websites showing rather shocking images of women still practicing tight lacing today. There is even a website offshoot about how to do it. Yikes!
And so, due to all the obvious problems with tight lacing, the corset was cast off....right?
In the mid 20th century, the girdle became the essential underpinning, a garment that nips in the waist. All kinds of girdles were available, from high-waisted briefs, to full body suits. Once again the wasp waist became desirable, and women achieved it by wearing girdles.
|The girdle of the 1950s, and the waist shape it meant to create|
|Average measurements of a British woman, 1950|
|A girdled Christina Hendricks, as Joan Holloway on "Mad Men."|
|Modcloth's full body corselet, they call it.|
What do you think?