Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Corsets and Courtesies, in flames

Now, I'm generally the first to admit my blog is nothing more than a bit of fluff to keep my interested friends and family up to date on what is going on around here with my part of the clan. Today, I'm going to take a moment to pull out my soap box, put forth my two cents, and possibly go on a bit of a rant.
Recently, Solanah of Vixen Vintage fame posted about a darling outfit she wore while making a simple trip to the grocery store. My goodness if this didn't stir up a ruckus. Why? In this post, she also made note of a dreadful and increasing habit one often sees at the grocer.... pajama pants. I don't mean the ones on sale in Fred Meyer, or at the Super Wal-Marts. I mean the pajamas that have been washed in at least a week being worn on the bodies that may also not have been washed in many days. It's disgusting! Dirty, filthy pajamas being pulled on by hands that will then be touching food, possibly even produce, in the grocery store where many others shop for their own food.

On to the blog title, and my theories.

I believe the decline in the use of corsets, along with the increased popularity of motor vehicles, has led us to the society in which we now find ourselves. Why? When people had to walk or take horses to make visits, they had to plan. When women wore corsets, it took a bit more time to get dressed and ready to leave the house.  It takes a lot of undergarments to make the corsets of yesteryear bearable for daily wear. This means you actually needed to plan your outings and visits to friends. When you have to plan to do things, you naturally want to take the time to look nice, as well. This was the same for ladies of the house, and ladies of the night.
Do not dare stretch this to say that I am blaming the liberation of women and would ever want to step back to a time where women do not have the right to vote, choose, or even own property.
When corsets were thrown to the waste baskets, women moved on to brassieres. Mary Phelps Jacob claimed to have created the brassiere by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon so that she could more easily go out dancing. She later sold the patent to Warner Brothers. Naturally this design was far easier and quicker to dress in. It was also much more comfortable.

Eventually, women did take a step back to a corset like design in the form of the girdle to achieve the popular androgynous look of the 1920s.

After WWI, brassieres returned, and Warner Brothers introduced cup sizes. Since then, many designs and materials have been used to create bras for women. Howard Hughes even had one specially engineered for Jane Russell.

My point is, the original corsets required assistance to put on. You made plans to leave the house, and you made sure you looked nice to do so. Your outfit had to be just so, and quite secure to withstand the traveling arrangements. Everything took time, including getting dressed.

Eventually corsets were designed so that one could be put on by the person wearing it. This does mean you have to take a little less time to plan when leaving the house. But still, not much of an improvement and still things took time. Though, the introduction of the automobile was influential in the time that it took people to follow through with plan, not everybody had one.

With the brassiere came reduction in material used to make a support garment. It was also substantially faster and easier to put on than anything before. You did not need undergarments beneath your support garment to protect your skin. Getting rid of all those layers makes getting out of the house much easier to just pop in on a girlfriend. Again, the automobile was becoming more prevalent as well. Heading out to the local grocer was a breeze. Even visiting the nation's landmarks became easier with the completion of the Interstate Highway.

Eventually the automobile was as common a sight as a woman with a properly supporting brassiere. But still, there were members of society who were unhappy with even this reduced restriction. So came the burning of the bras. This activity was usually done by people who were experimenting habitually with mind altering narcotics. Not exactly your upstanding members of society. Nor were they the most hygienic.

Bras became thinner, while hair got bigger, and attitudes toward fellow man got uglier.

Camisole bra tops became acceptable to wear out in public, the internet and silicone were on the rise.

Now, when people deem it necessary to leave the confines of their computer screen, they often do it in their pajamas and no bra at all.

I'm not judging those who are physically incapable of getting themselves dressed. I know there are people out there who are disabled and have no help at all. People who are lucky enough to scrape together something to buy food, let alone a pair jeans to wash nightly in the sink. I'm not judging those people.
I'm judging the able bodied souls out there who make the choice to put forth the statement to the world, "I Don't Care."

We get the message, loud and clear. You not only don't care what others may think of you, but you also do not care to think of yourself. I assure you, if you feel depressed or down for the day, slipping into something nice and doing your hair and makeup will certainly make you feel better than ratty jammies.
Like I always say, "If I feel like crap, I'm sure as hell not going to look like crap!"
Stand up, Americans! Wash up and slip on a pair of jeans for goodness sake! Show some pride in yourselves. Show some pride in your fellow Americans. Oh hell, you can even go back to the bra shelf top. Just put on some support of some kind! And please, for the love of anything you care to love, please let the next group burn session include sweat pants that aren't even being used for working out in. Please.


bonita said...

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Oh I so agree. It's not so much a "freedom to wear what we want" issue as in a "I can't be bothered and I don't want to be".

For myself, there is an astounding lack of decency and respect for EVERTHING these days ~ for others, for our environment, and plain and simply for ourselves. This comes across in so many ways {such as being hours late to an event or not bothering to show up at all when you said you would} and not just wearing dirty pjs to the shops.

I really feel that this discussion is less about what we are wearing as a comment on the state of our social conscious these days. But that could just be me.

bonita of Depict This!
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The Kerrs said...

people seem to have no respect for anything or any one anymore. I see so many things that aren't just limited to dirty sleepwear that make me crazy, most of it centering around people who refuse to control their children, lol but that's for another time! I have to say I find my corset (for ren faires) rather comfortable. I'm large chested, and sometimes it's not comfortable to get into the steel-trap of a bra style I wear, but I do it everytime I leave the house because it's disgusting and distasteful not to. I will reach my arm out the partially opened screen door to grab the mail out of the box right next to it in my PJs... but it has never struck me to get into the car that way! lol. I mean, I've been pretty depressed at times, I've been through a divorce and my current husband and I have been through him going on 5 deployments since we got married 5 years ago, lol... so I've been in the dumps pretty bad from time to time and I can still manage to pull on a damn pair of jeans before I face the world.

Anonymous said...

I liked reading this little history lesson in corsets and bras! Pretty interesting take on it also! Comparisons of photos of women before vs. women now (especially ones like the gal in the pink shirt) I find absolutely fascinating.

Unfortunately, I think most of the people who took issue with her post were more upset by her judgmental, elitist tone than her actual point. Plus it's easy to just generalize that people are lazy because they dress sloppy on one particular day that you see them.

I was actually laughing about that today because I went to spin class and then ran to the grocery store in my spin clothes rather than go home to shower first!

iheartlauren said...

Hey Courtney! I found your blog through Solanah's. I really didn't understand why people were sticking up for the public pajama wearers. Like you said, the people going out in their pjs don't care what other people think of them. So why would they care so much that some vintage fashion blogger doesn't approve? I highly doubt anyone that wears pajamas regularly to go out reads vintage fashion blogs anyway. <3

Courtney said...

You're certainly right. I highly doubt those who choose to look shabby in public are seeking out fashion blogs, let alone vintage fashion blogs.
People, as a broad general, have a dreadful lack of social and envrionmental consciousness. Part of it is our go go go pace. Part of it is sheer numbers. Part of it is a heavy dose of distrust in our fellow man. A lot of it is the self indulgent, instantaneous, self gratification, entitlement mentality so many have.
I feel for the women who are naturally heavily endowed. Some women I've seen, it makes my back hurt just looking at them. I imagine it's uncomfortable no matter what you do.
Trixie, I think people are less judging towards people who obviously just got done with a workout and popped into the grocer in the way home. A lot of gyms around here are actually located very close to grocers.

Usako said...

Wearing shell suits (do you say so in America as well? My dictionary told me it's a British expression ;) or pajamas in public is just horrible to look at. Also hanging breasts without bras - aside from the look, I don't understand how someone could stand it, with cup B or bigger it's more like... ache, not freedom?