Corset Snark Is Also Body Snark

© Joel Aron | Model: Allie Diane | Corset: Dark Garden

© Joel Aron | Model: Allie Diane | Corset: Dark Garden

Over the past couple years, The Lingerie Addict has made it increasingly clear that we are a body-positive, body snark free zone.  Actually, I’d like to think the internet in general has made some strides towards acknowledging that to accept or appreciate one sort of body doesn’t inherently involve trying to dismiss another.  But just as it’s unfair, irrelevant, and downright rude to criticize someone else’s body, it’s also inappropriate to judge them based on their clothing preferences, and that also applies to corsets. Corsets are increasing in popularity and visibility and the issue of corset snark needs to be addressed from within the community as well as from an outsider perspective. The view that wearing corsets is somehow undermining the past decades of women’s lib persists among opponents, a knee-jerk reaction to a sexualizing and binding garment… but that’s for another post.

body_snark_free_zone

If you’re still in the dark, what I’m talking about it is not judging or calling someone out for: whether they wear corsets at all, their corset size, their natural waist measurement, the number of inches they compress, the shaping of their corset, how long they’ve been wearing corsets, what kind of corset they buy, how many inches they’ve shaved off their natural waist measurement, the reason (including a person) why they wear a corset, how long or how often they wear their corset, etc.

No one gets to be the arbiter as to whether someone else is a “real” waist trainer/tightlacer, or a “real” feminist, or anything in between.

© Max Johnson | Model: Nicole Simone | Corset: Pop Antique

© Max Johnson | Model: Nicole Simone | Corset: Pop Antique

Just because a corset can be a highly visible type of body mod doesn’t actually mean the wearer is inviting your opinion.  Even if the wearer in question is in the spotlight for their corseting (such as Cathy Jung or Michèle Köbke), or a close personal friend of yours, it’s poor form to criticize the way they go about it, unasked. Often this takes place in the form of “concern trolling.” Unless someone has personally told you that their corset is creating more health problems than it solves (yes, corsets can help with mental and physical health concerns!), don’t assume that they need some sort of corset intervention before they hourglass to death.

Photograph of famous tightlacing icon Polaire.  (Look a little closer to see how this photo was retouched to make her waist look more extreme.)

Photograph of famous tightlacing icon Polaire. (Look a little closer to see how this photo was retouched to make her waist look more extreme.)

Another common mistake I see is assuming that tightlacers in particular are doing it to “be sexy,” but it “backfires” and instead they look “disgusting” and obviously “have an eating disorder.” Everyone I know who wears a corset regularly does it because they like it for themselves; if their partner(s) like it as well, that’s just a bonus. Actually, in my experience, your typical male (outside the fetish community) is more likely to find an extremely corseted figure macabre more than attractive. And, as Cora mentioned in, “Body Image: It Doesn’t Matter What Size You Are… Stop the Body Snark,” if the person actually does have an eating disorder, mocking or criticizing them for it will do absolutely nothing to help the situation. Don’t trivialize the struggles of those who do suffer from eating disorders by wantonly describing anyone whom you think is “too thin” as having one.

© Jon Bean Hastings | Model: Elisa Berlin | Corset: Pop Antique

© Jon Bean Hastings | Model: Elisa Berlin | Corset: Pop Antique

Talking to someone about how to improve the fit of their corset, lacing techniques, and quality brands can be executed in the form of friendly advice (delivered in a non-patronizing tone). Always remember with your approach that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, do unto others, etc.  If the person is sincerely enthused about corsetry, they’ll open a dialogue.  If you feel overwhelmed or out of your depth with the questions, there are plenty of online resources for corset education, including not only my previous and ongoing corsetry articles here on The Lingerie Addict but also Lucy’s Corsetry, the Long Island Staylace Association, and so forth.

I hope this hasn’t come across as too bossy! I firmly believe that by focusing on positive elements of others’ corseting, phrasing differences of opinion as such rather than judgments, and offering sincere and factual advice when appropriate, the ties of the community and the breadth of the design possibilities can only grow positively.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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8 Comments

  1. Evija
    11/04/14 at 2:14

    Marianne, there is NOTHING wrong with being “bossy”. I think it’s another word that should be discouraged in mostly female communities, such as this one – speaking your mind, even with god damn swear words – is not being bossy, it’s being sensible and honest. If you ever worked for some annoying OR awesome people, all the connotations w/the word “boss” would disappear in a jiffy :)

    Anyway, I like to snark the hell out of the incompatibility between a corset and its wearer. Cups that runneth over, tums that spill out the bottom, all that jazz. Below is one of the very rare corset pics of yours truly back in 2010/11, being all UK! dieting! lacing! – as you’ll see, the bolero jacket doesn’t hide some things I hate, like the armpit crease.
    And I was okay with my online friends pointing out that girl, there are better images of you, corset or no corset. Anyone who’d seen this picture had known me for some time and also knew that patronizing won’t work with me. And if there’s someone who tries to go snarky on me without knowing me, why would I bother with random people telling me things?

    I’m still learning the awesome medium that is the Internet. And yet, I can’t find anyone to troll/diss me anymore, for various reasons, I suppose. Maybe it’s because most my bios have a disclaimer that I’m a militant boss a$$ beech, or maybe people have gotten used to the sense that I put in my writing – even though there sometimes is none. We all have some flaws/imperfections/whatnot as we see them in our mind.. but hate the game, don’t hate the player. xo

    ah right, here’s the pic.. I’ll go forth and say I don’t want comments on the entire picture. You can comment on my armpit crease, on the make of the corset, or on my silly eyebrows, or what the picture stands for, but please don’t tell me I am or am not pretty :)
    https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-utWMQWGAW48/TY4h4dvE0tI/AAAAAAAABBQ/Vos0s8MRvPg/w392-h591-no/DSC05855.JPG

  2. 11/04/14 at 20:07

    This is a great conversation to bring up. We try to educate women on the difference with wearing a “fashion corset” and one that is steel boned. How lacing it can give different effect to on their breast, waist and hips.

  3. Thursday
    11/04/14 at 20:27

    A succinct article that sums up my main thoughts too, Marianne. I get annoyed by the knee-jerk reaction anti-corset crowd and by the elitist, dedicated corset wearers. You don’t have to like them, or like everything that’s possible in the world of corsets, but you do have to think, and educate yourself, before you open your mouth to criticise another.

    • Evija
      12/04/14 at 1:53

      to put it 9gag comment style: came here for this.

  4. 14/04/14 at 3:52

    Wonderful article, thank you!

    On a side note, why do so many of my friends and all my family question my (moderate) corset wearing, when all my doctors fully support it? I must admit nowadays the first reason I wear a corset is to alleviate lumbar pain. Works wonders.

    • Icy
      18/06/14 at 14:10

      It may be because the common misconception about corsets being “death traps” that injure internal organs.

  5. Krystle
    15/04/14 at 12:33

    Thanks for this post! Some of the corset bloggers I follow are becoming much too patronizing for my taste. There is no need for corset police. I was beginning to think there was a void of mature corset lovers.

  6. Mimi
    21/04/14 at 1:04

    To which I’ll add that one person’s “that doesn’t look good on you” is another’s “oooh, baby!!” A bit of bosom bulge, for instance; or the squishy bit of my back that rolls slightly over the top edge—I have been complimented on both enough times to realize these aren’t things I need worry about; they’re also not necessarily a sign of an ill-fitting corset—it’s all a matter of personal taste.

    If I ask you how a particular garment looks on me, I want you to be honest with me, and I’ll take into consideration what criticism you may have. If I didn’t ask you, and especially if you don’t appreciate my shape and how I choose to play with it, keep it to yourself!

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