Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yellow Wallpaper (redux) and Some New Treasuries

Photo Credit
It's that time again, kids. Time to teach Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." I get excited about teaching this story not because of the its inherently morbid quality, but because of its potential for bringing the circumstances of the Victorian woman to light. We ladies have absolutely no idea what it was to wear a corset. And I'm not talking about these lovelies, which I might actually consider putting on for fun. No, no, I'm talking corsets that made women like children, since they could not dress themselves without help. (Remember Scarlet O'Hara getting help from her maid while dressing?) I'm talking corsets that changed the shape of the body permanently, from repeated use, much like Chinese foot-binding practices. Miscarraiges were common because of the compression of the fetus (believe it or not, they still wore corsets during pregnancy....isn't it a wonder that we as a species continued into the 20th century at all?).

Scarlet's inability to dress herself was due in large part to the corset,
which laced in the back and had to be pulled tight.
Corsets were not only a health hazard, they robbed women
of their independence.

Edwardian-era Corset, c. 1900 (Photo Credit)

And because the lungs were similarly compressed, fainting was common. It was considered exquisitely feminine to be so pale and frail, to faint at distressing news. A tightly laced corset, darlings, does that to a girl. Those staight-backed,  fainting couches were not simply part of fussy Victoriana. They served a purpose: first, it promoted good posture already reinforced by the corset. (Whalebone stays prevent slouching.) Moreoever, a girl needed somehwere to be lie until she recovered herself.

We think our era has unrealistic expectations of women. Indeed it does, in many ways. But, we don't have anything over the Victorian era's chief caging device. Want to keep a good girl down? Make her wear one of these and call it fashionable. No, make it a social requirement. Why, every good girl wears one. (In truth, mostly all of the bad ones, too). It thins and smooths, giving you an elegant contour. How can you not want to wear yours, darling?

In other exciting news, I've been a busy, busy girl. There's been a great deal of studio work, and new creations will be posted in my art shop soon. In the meantime, I've created a few treasuries of beautiful items. Two of these treasuries appear just below. Enjoy!

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