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Cinderella's Corset Controversy (Or Why Everyone Should Calm Down About Lily James' Waist)

Lily James stars in Disney's upcoming live-action Cinderella film. It comes out next week but her waist has been making waves for months already.

Lily James stars in Disney's upcoming live-action Cinderella film. It comes out next week but her waist has been making waves for months already.

It has been brought to my attention that the internet is still flipping out over Lily James' waist in the trailers and promotional imagery of Disney's upcoming Cinderella film. First there was the debate over whether her waist has been edited in post-production to be so tiny. Now, the camp that thinks said waist is causing body dysmorphia is latching onto the revelation that wearing a corset changes the way you eat: Lily James went on a "partially liquid diet" while wearing the corset. (Um, isn't that also technically a "partially solid diet?")

A stepsister in her undergarments: a corset and unusual crinoline.

A stepsister in her undergarments: a corset and unusual crinoline.

I take issue with this on a lot of levels. First, why do we really care that much about what (female) celebrities eat? That, to me, speaks far more to the body image issues that plague this country's women than the use of shapewear and/or Photoshop. I still don't understand why a corset is supposedly more misleading and damaging than, say, eyeliner, or high heels, or even Spanx.

“If you're going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you'll also have to be mad about earrings. No one's ears are that sparkly!”

-Tina Fey, Bossypants

Lily James' now famously tiny waist in a promotional image from Disney's new live-action Cinderella film.

Lily James' now famously tiny waist in a promotional image from the new live-action Cinderella film.

Now, just how "unreal" is the waist in question? It's really hard to edit an actual human in footage rather than a still image, so it's unlikely that any of the trailers featured a CGI waistline. On the other hand, realistically, the results of any photoshoot for a major motion picture would be cleaned up to some degree in post-production. But let's stop pretending that photos are magical truth mirrors, please, and that every other actress's arms, waist, face and/or boobs aren't touched up for every single movie poster ever since the dawn of movies.

A side view of Lily James in her Cinderella ballgown. Notice how her waist is about the same width from this perspective as from the front - it's been sculpted to a circular, rather than oval, shape to further the illusion of tinyness.

A side view of Lily James in her Cinderella ballgown. Notice how her waist is about the same width from this perspective as from the front - it's been sculpted to a circular, rather than oval, shape to further the illusion of tinyness when viewed from the front.

As others, like Catherine Clavering of Kiss Me Deadly, have pointed out, part of the apparent smallness of the waist is an optical illusion created by the fullness of the skirts and neckline/shoulder poofs. Check out this post on Dispelling the Myth of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Waist and scroll down to see another blue dress with a similar silhouette from the Met Museum.

Some corsets are also cut so that some of the circumference of the torso is merely redistributed front and back, rather than reduced, which makes front and back views look much more extreme. The size of the skirt and the structure of the corset also have a symbiotic relationship. Historically, a woman's bodice or corset helped distribute the weight of heavy skirts.

Lily James in a simpler day costume for Cinderella.

Lily James in a simpler day costume for Cinderella.

Now, note the different tone taken by these two interviews with Lily James. She states that she is naturally small waisted and was substantially corseted for the film, but the LA Times interview emphasizes her well-being and appreciation for the costume whereas her E! interview is a bit self-effacing and admittedly overdramatic.

“I think it’s all very hypocritical, and they contradict themselves, and they’re drawing more attention to it. I think all that stuff’s so negative, and you’ve got to let it wash over your head,” she said, struggling to find her words. “I’m so healthy. I’ve got hips and boobs and a bum and a small waist.”

-Lily James

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

As for her so-called "liquid diet," I find the way it's being discussed to be a bit misleading. It's not as if Lily James went on a juice fast (an action our culture would normally find praise-worthy) to fit into the corset and never ate solid food. Exclusively for the time when she was corseted, she found soup easier to digest, and her director made sure there was always some at the ready for her. Everyone reacts differently to eating in a corset, but eating smaller/more frequent meals (another action which is generally thought of as good health practice) and different kinds of food is totally normal.

The vast majority of women (and men) wearing corsets today are doing it for their own pleasure and can elect to loosen their laces somewhat during or after eating in order to accommodate the digestive process if necessary.

Since Ms. James was on a film set, her corset had to be consistently laced to the same level in order to maintain the fit of the dress, and she didn't have as much control over when she put her corset on and took it off.

Historically, women would (of course) wear tighter corsets for special occasions like a ball, just as modern women might wear their highest heels for a special event. The difference here is that not only were those women accustomed to daily corseting, but they only had to do it for one night, not however many days it takes to get the requisite takes for a huge motion picture. Actors and actresses have surely endured much crazier things than soup for the sake of film.

“I was constantly saying ‘You are eating, aren’t you, Lily? Let’s get Lily some soup please!'”

-Kenneth Branagh, Director of Cinderella

Lily James in a corseted ballgown in Cinderella.

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

At the end of the day, I just wish we would stop treating corseting as if it were some form of madness. While those who are campaigning against tiny waists may think they're doing it "for the children!" it's nothing more than another kind of body snark. Don't tell me Lily James' waist is why you need feminism; this unrelenting judgment of what women wear and eat is why I need feminism.


Marianne Faulkner

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.

29 Comments on this post

  1. M says:

    A corset is one thing… No objection… but when you look at some of the images… Cinderella’s waist is CGI altered as well. She would have had to remove her ribs to look as thin as it is shown in this film!

    • Bess says:

      No she would not have needed any ribs removed and neither did any victorian lady. Just sit and think of how serious and major an operation of that kind is even now (tends to *only* happen for surgery where heart and lungs need to be operated on or for heart and/or lung transplant) and is tnot taken lightly. In the days when anaesthetics were in their infancy, that kind of surgery would never have been done as the risk of death was so high. I knew someone who did have floating rib removed due to requiring operation on his lung. He was under health visitor daily care for months, his body on that side *caved* in around where that rib used to be and he was hnable to wear anything snug around his waist again. He had trousers which were a size bigger to ensure loose waist and used braces to keep them up. Corset wearing would have been impossible and dangerous *with a rib removed*. In Lily’s case, she is naturaly small waisted and the corset/bodice is made to fit her own body. You do not need to have any ribs removed no any CGI (which would be expensive for all those scenes. I work in IT, my time is expensive simply for creating bespoke excel spreadsheets. CGI and graphics is even more expensive).

  2. Catherine Healey says:

    Ms. Faulkner, thank you for that well-reasoned, logical and level-headed response. Lily James looked beautiful to me, and I simply took the tiny waist as adherence to a long-standing convention of the fairy tale genre – just as I do when I see images of tiny-waisted fairy tale princesses in other media.

    Why should Lily James’ waist size matter to any of us?

    If it matters to parents who worry that young daughters may try to mimic Cinderella’s tiny waist, they’re free to do any number of things. They can:

    a. Talk to their daughters about their concerns; ensue that their daughters are being taught the parents’ values in the home.
    b. Not take their daughters to see this or any other movie they find objectionable.
    c. Restrict their daughters’ access to fairy tale picture books, cartoons and animated films that depict heroines’ waists In the same fashion.

    But to anyone who thinks that advocating the censorship of ideas (whether through film boycott or book-burning) can ever be considered pro-feminism: please, DO NOT speak for me. Feminism is about women having autonomy and free agency in their own lives. Advocating the boycott of a film because you disagree with the message which one of its elements may send is exactly the type of fear-based, hysterical overreaction that lends credence to the very worst paternalistic female stereotypes and robs feminism of its legitimacy.

    So choose not to see the movie. Choose to walk out. But don’t you dare try to say that your authoritarian and fascist world view is an expression of feminism. It’s absolutely the opposite.

  3. Jaime T says:

    I don’t have an issue with the appearance or portrayal of corseted women or hourglass figures in general; they’re just bodies.

    The problem is that the vast majority of body types are almost never seen. We typically see hourglass, straight, and inverted triangle figures in media and never any other types. Additionally all of these women are a level of thin that is fading in America and I don’t think low-end BMIs should be the only representation. I thought I was fat for years when I was younger simply because I never straddled that lower “normal” range but rather stayed in the mid-high normal range. I was treated very cruelly as well for not constantly trying to “pretty up” and dress the way “women should”. It felt terrible to be treated as less than human because I was not trying to become the ultimate in white feminine beauty at 12-14 years old.

    It would mean a lot to a lot of girls and women if Disney would make an ordinary looking person in a queen or princess character. Hourglass girls, fit girls, naturally thin girls, etc…they all have their representation. I get the draw of trying to create mesmerizing stunning beauty as an art form, but at some point we have to admit the media girls grow up with drives what they think is normal and women are taught they are poor people indeed when they cannot attain what they “should”. The movie is made so I don’t have a beef with the actress or the design choices. I just keep hoping the next film will break the mold.

    It makes me think of when they made The Princess and the Frog. It’s not that white women as princesses are bad, it’s not, but up until that point little African American girls did not have someone representing them. When they made Princess Tiana it was both stunning and beautiful to see little girls able to choose and admire someone they connected with in a totally different way from the traditional princesses. And some adult women too.

    So TLDR: representation is important, I’m sad Disney didn’t use Cinderella as an opportunity to explore using other body types as the “enviable beauty”, but I’m hopeful as they continue to make films that they will branch out their representation. Variety is the spice of life!

  4. J. Marie says:

    Wow. No.
    The main issue with the corset is that it is making her look extremely small, something that is forced upon actresses and the average woman on a daily basis. Always be smaller. Smaller is better. Women are destroying and starving themselves attempting to attain this ideal even though they know that it’s photoshopped or that they are fairytale princesses or that it’s just a corset. Even being fully aware of these things impacts how you perceive your own body and the bodies of others. The issue is not that she is naturally thin, the issue is that they could have gone without a corset and she still would have looked fine. Nobody would have noticed. But no, they expected her to whittle herself down even smaller for a seemingly unnecessary reason that I cannot even grasp. And this movie that is geared at younger, presumably female, audiences is representing beauty in a way that is even more unrealistic. I grew up with the original disney princesses, as did a lot of young girls, and I can tell you my idea of femininity has been very influenced by how the princesses were portrayed. Representing a wider diversity of body-parts is not “handing everyone a medal even if they lost”. It is something that needs to happen for the safety and sanity of future generations. I think people are not finding issue with the corsets. If you want to wear one than by all means. But it’s more the fact that she is already a smaller-built person and they STILL found her body in need of tweaking.

  5. Gman says:

    Much Ado About Nothing, imo, which by the way is also good drama. It’s a FAIRY TALE for (atheist) heavens sake! As for a bit of reality, my grandmother who was born in the 19th Century, wore corsets all her life, bore seven children, and lived a healthy life to the age of 93. And as a male, I agree; enough with policing women’s bodies. They come in all sorts of wonderful shapes and sizes and women should dress however they want, and .. Nobody’s bizzness if they do.

    Anyway, what I really wanted to ask about was if anyone knew which corsetier made the corsets for the film?

    • Jan Monroe says:

      My grandmother liver to 98 had 6 children lived through the both WW1 and WW2. Had to carry coal up two flights of stairs and in all that time she still maintained the Edwardian style that she had been brought to embrace, yes and that meant a full corset not only laced in every day but she would sleep in one.

  6. Dinah says:

    I agree withe poster above that pain and discomfort are nothing for the really motivated….Victorian belles and present day actresses/reenactors are prepared too suffer to get the right look.  Some of us here may look back to the early 1960s girdles etc with pain and loathing ….but we wore them willingly.

    I’ve done theater wardrobe work and I’ve put actresses into corsets (note the words….”actresses into”..and not “corsets onto”).

    Imho the answer is quite simple, this Cinderella probably has a naturally small waist, and when tightlaced she had a REALLY small.  She wore very tight corsets that severely changed her figure…..and  breathing, her eating, her posture, her movements, her deportment,….

    In reality it’s not that difficult to get this size waist….it’s just that most of us don’t want to do it.  Besides a well made custom corset you need a firm minded and sympathetic (and sadistic?) wardrobe dresser.  Ideally you start gradually some weeks before  so that both  your body and mind get used to this new, strange world.  The “mind” bit is important, you need to view the world as a 18/19 century lady, not a comfort loving woman of today.

    On the day you start lacing 3 hours before the shoot…and gradually reduce until you can get into the dress.


  7. I’d like to know when the world decided that fairytale princesses should look like every-girl? Surely they are supposed to impossibly pretty, prettier that all the other girls in their fairytale world. Surely it would be healthier to teach kids that not everything is attainable and not everyone, or even anyone, can look like the magic princess, than to expect the princess to be downgraded to averagely achievable. This strikes me as the same mindset that thinks nobody should lose on sports days or fail at tests, because everyone should be a winner. Not a very good basis for life.

    I’m surprised nobody is insisting Disney make the glass slippers into pvc ones, just in case someone gets hurt from trying to walk in actual glass shoes.

    The corset is fine and the shape is exaggerated by the skirt, A skirt that would be uncomfortable without it. The fact the actress ate some soup is hardly extreme, she wasn’t starving herself by any means. It’s possible there is some CGI at some points if they were adding any sparkly magical effects (won’t know until seeing it).

    I may go write a complaint now about the shocking unavailability of pumpkin based transport!

  8. AlexaFaie says:

    I’m happy to see this post. The first time I saw a post outraged at the tiny waist of Cinderella it got me so annoyed. It then linked to a post of what the Disney Princesses should really look like if they were average sized for their ages. And the thing is, those averages were NOTHING like I was like during my teens. Those posts saying “this is better than that” just brought me back to how bad I used to feel about my body when I was growing up. And how I was somehow freakish and clothes shops didn’t make clothes which fitted right etc.
    Yes, that’s right, I used to hate and think I was disgusting for having an hourglass figure as it was so different from that of my friends and acquaintances. People would comment on my waist being “so tiny” and it always felt like a negative comment. I had people wondering if I was anorexic or bulimic, and yet they’d see me eating practically all day (I’m a grazer, lots of eating of small portions) and no signs of me ever throwing up. I wore the same P.E. skirt all the way from primary school (probably around 7yrs old) until the end of year 11 (16 yrs old) when we no longer had to do P.E. I had to re-sew the button tighter on the waistband in year 8 or 9 with the onset of puberty (yay late bloomer) because my waist got smaller and my hips and bust larger.
    I find the comments that its wrong to portray this kind of “unnatural” figure to children to be just as hurtful when I somewhat share that so-called “unnatural” figure as someone might if they felt they HAD to look that way but didn’t. But the thing is, this shape is possible for most people (men included) with the use of corsetry and petticoats and crinolines and skirts and other voluminous things. Perhaps at a different waist size, but its not the size that is important, its the proportion and the silhouette.
    In comparison I’d have no hope in hell of fitting into a 1920s Flapper Girl dress without a lot of bandaging down of boobs and padding out of the waist (even then it would be tricky to look good). Luckily I’m not drawn to that aesthetic, but it has certainly stayed around as a body ideal. Quite a lot of models are very boy-ish in their figure types. They’d look just great in Flapper dresses. The semi-recent fascination with size 0 and even 00 goes to show that its a popular body type. The trouble is that people who don’t understand corsets are confusing small waists with this size 0/00 “ideal”. But the difference is that its just the waist being made smaller. They see “OMG look at her shrinking herself away to nothing”, whereas people who actually know a reasonable amount about corsets (maybe wearing them) see a lady wearing a garment which temporarily reduces the apparent size of the waist.

    Oh and a little happier thing to end – I’m now relatively happy with my body. How I think and feel about it has significantly improved since I discovered and started wearing corsets (which I did because the proportions of a Vollers corset with the waist 10″ smaller than the bust and hips – at the time – matched my natural proportions and I thought I could wear corsets as tops). I realise that for some what I have naturally is coveted and that makes me appreciate myself more. Hourglass bodies are relatively rare and so I can class that as a bonus instead of thinking I’m a freak for being different. I have parts of me I’d like to improve – like my thighs which have always been large (used to do a lot of walking every week day and most weekends too) are now flabby instead of muscled after too many years of inactivity after getting ill. So the parts of me I’d like to change are basically physical fitness! Otherwise I’m pretty happy!

  9. SKG says:

    There was an interesting article on mashable about “beauty work”, which is frame-by-frame editing (using software) of scenes or entire films. So yes, it is possible for every scene to have her waist digitally altered.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi SKG,
      I didn’t say it was impossible, just that it’s significantly harder to do this for live action than a photo still. It’s far easier (which, in studio terms means “cheaper”) to create that waist size by using both corsetry and optical illusion based on overall proportion. It is very cool what we can do with CGI technology these days, though.

  10. Ilia says:

    You know what? As a teen, I would have looked at Lily James and felt a bit green, jealous of her natural good looks and face structure. I would have looked at her waist and thought, “Hmm, that’s actually attainable with healthy eating, exercise, and a corset.”

    About the soup quote, soup can be quite nutritious and it’s easy digestibility is great if you’re pregnant, sick, have IBS, menstruating, etc. There are many reasons to eat soup and eating is is hardly indicative of dangerously tight corsets.

  11. Marisa says:

    I’m a performer. Anyone who hasn’t been safety-pinned into a costume before a performance because it was the only option and the costumer knows you don’t have to show your back, who hasn’t smiled through excruciating pain, who hasn’t dropped weight to fit into a costume, who hasn’t been told flat-out it’s the costume, not them, and if you don’t fit it then they’ll find someone who will, doesn’t understand what it means to perform. We are tools to execute someone else’s vision. The beauty of it is that this is our CHOICE. If we don’t like it, we can walk, and pretty much every other job will be less competitive and seem easy by comparison. So… let’s worry about people who don’t have a choice about starving themselves, shall we? What I’m saying is… Hell yes, with cheese, to your post.

  12. Victorian Lady-Living Historian says:

    As a woman who is a reenactor whose portrayal is that of a woman doctor of the victorian era and whom also gives living history talks on the ills of wearing a corset. I can honestly say after acquiring information of thousands of hours of documented medical research on the effects on victorian women who wore corsets that there were often sever health complications associated with wearing a corset, including life threatening health complications. Some of these complications include: The constriction of the corset, if too tight, prevents the lower lobes of the lungs from fully expanding when taking a breath. This puts extra strain on and causes additional work for the lower lobes of the lungs. Due to the strain placed on the lower lobes, the ability to fight off pneumonia or tuberculosis descends to the lower lungs first.Victorian doctors studied the effects that the corset had on women of the times and it was unanimously agreed upon that the corset caused negative and often had life threatening health effects on a women’s bodies and their unborn children.
    Other effects of wearing a corset included: the stomach, liver; including the large and small intestines being pressed upon from lacing the corset down. One of the most common side effects of wearing a corset was known as chicken breast. Chicken breast occurred when the corset pressed too tightly against the ribs, causing the ribs to fracture,which could often lead to punctured lungs. Another more significant side effect from wearing a corset Another more significant ill effect of wearing a corset involved a prolapsed uterus. A prolapsed uterus was so common among women of the victorian era who chose to wear corsets for beauty’s sake. Other significant side effects of wearing a corset included: bruised internal organs being forcefully repositioned upward into the lungs and heart often causing gangrene and cancer from constantly being tightened down. Further side affects from wearing and tightening down a corset also involved a distorted spinal column that pressed upon the spinal cord, bruising it often cutting off blood flow to it which often caused permanent paralysis resulting in confinement to a wheelchair.
    Although women’s roles during the victorian period were to be married and have children, still pregnant women were expected to wear a modified form of the corset. Pregnant woman’s body were considered taboo by victorian society and not meant to be shown. Corsets for pregnant women were created in order to reduce the appearance of their pregnancy which caused obvious detriment to unborn future children. Unwed women of the victorian era who became pregnant where required to often wear a corset to hide their pregnancy from victorian society. A significant side effect of doing so often caused these pregnant women to experience miscarriages . Victorian women who were unaware that they were pregnant, often continued wear a corset often tightening down their corset which could inevitably cause unexpected miscarriages. Victorian doctors of the time agreed that the continual use of the corset during a woman’s pregnancy would produce a child that was not only unhealthy, but would affect the child’s mental capabilities as well.
    Wearing as well as tightening down a corset affected women during labor, making labor more painful for women, especially women who began wearing corsets at a young age. Wearing as well as tightening down a corset often caused irregular menstruation issues. In reality, the corset was developed by victorian society for the purpose of vanity as well as promoting a ridiculous set of beauty standards which serve no purpose except to cater to the vain, unrealistic,unevolved expectations of victorian men who didn’t live in reality. Not only were women victims of this vain fad, but often their unborn children as well.

    • Liz says:

      There is so much wrong with you post that I almost don’t know where to begin.
      Firstly, you are taking 150 year old medical research and treating it as irreproachably valid. This disturbs me since you say you are an educator and reenactor.
      Constricted breathing: Yes, it happens, but it’s not nearly as crazy-dangerous as it is made out to be. Lucy’s video about breathing in corsets:
      Organs being pressed: Yes, again true. Your organs move…a lot. And not just during corsetry. Sitting, getting pregnant, and eating large meals move your organs around. The human waist is full of membranes, fats, liquids, and gasses, all of which move rather easily and painlessly (if they didn’t how would I be able to curl up in the fetal position from reading bad corset myths?).
      Chicken Breast: Wha–?? This is nowhere near a “common” occurrence, let along the “most common.” Ribs are very strong. Corsets can reshape the lower floating ribs slowly over time if designed to do so, but in order for ribs to break, some greater force must act on them than a corset. A fall, previous trauma (i.e. breaking a rib than upsetting the break by wearing a corset before the rib has healed), or health issues like rickets which weakens the bones were common in the Victorian era can break ribs, but any of these things will break ribs even without a corset. Victorian women dealt with a lot of stairs, uneven ground, small children, farm animals, abusive spouses, and hazards. It would be very easy to break a rib by any of those means. Indeed, a corset was the least of a Victorian lady’s worries. In some instances, the corset even helps stabilize the body during trauma, lessening the effect and saving lives. Here is one such story:
      Uterine Prolapse: Uterine prolapses are actually still fairly common in our relatively corset-free society. Wearing a tight corset may increase the risk, but it won’t squeeze your organs out of you unless you have (once again) an underlying condition like very weak pelvic muscles or damage from childbirth. Most doctors of the era saw prolapses and went “Hmmm…all women with uterine prolapses are wearing corsets. The corsets must cause it.” That’s a causation/correlation confusion, a common problem when you rely solely on primary research. Few doctors ever saw a women without a corset and, indeed, knew much about the way the female body worked. So blaming a tight corset for any female-only problems with extremely easy.
      Miscarriages and abortions: Wow. No. Just stop there. Miscarriages are horrible, terrible events that happen at a surprisingly high rate of ALL pregnancies regardless of corset use. 10-20% of all *modern* pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that’s with modern medical care. Victorian women had so much less knowledgable care during pregnancy. Blaming a miscarriage on corsets is another instance of causation/correlation mix-up. It’s easier to place the blame on the mother’s habits, like wearing a corset/smoking/drinking/etc, than to understand the massive number variables like genetics, blood compatibility, malformations, etc. that contribute to miscarriages. Modern women still get blamed for their miscarriages which are often beyond their control.
      Anyway, I got a bit distracted there. Back to the topic at hand: For successful pregnancies, maternity and health corsets existed specifically to help support a woman carrying the heavy weight of a pregnancy just like a modern belly band and women wore loose clothes and often no corsets during the later stages. Like you said, Victorians were very VERY family oriented and concerned with baby care and health, including during gestation. They wanted to nurture that child and perserve the bodily integrity of the mother as much as possible. Pregnancy is hard ont eh body sand having soft but firm support from a maternity corset was a welcome relief for many women. Using corsets for abortions, however, is completely false. A corset cannot perform an abortion. That’s a myth, perpetuated by the anti-corset propaganda writers of the time that were actually concerned that tightly laced corsets gave young women too much freedom and made them sexually attractive and promiscuous (another reason tightlacing was frowned upon: It gave women control over their own bodies. We still struggle with this concept today). They argued that naughty teenage girls were trying to hide pregnancies or even abort them by using corsets. These scare-tactics went hand in hand with the anti-contraception campaigns going on at the same time, much like modern abstinence-only sex-ed that uses brilliant, full-color photos of STDs to scare teenagers into behaving rather than explaining useful, life-saving information about how sex works. A woman’s job was motherhood, but only in marriage of course.
      Lastly, they were not vanity symbols to the scores of women who did not live in the upper class. Corsets were not invented by men (or women) to enslave or contort. Corsets supported their backs during hard work, kept the breasts controlled and out of the way, and made the artfully crafted fashions of the time possible by supporting the weight. Have you ever gotten back pain from being hunched over the computer? A corset helped keep a woman’s back straight while doing the huge amounts of detail work like sewing or the vast amounts of hard physical labor like hauling water. You can still buy ridged, boned back supports today, though now they must call them braces instead of corsets thanks to the wide-spread belief that Victorians were idiots who only cared about squeezing their waists down to the smallest, most unnatural size. No one expects you to wear corsets today, but at least try to respect your ancestors and get the facts straight. You can’t call your ancestors vain, stupid, and barbaric and then turn around and claim their (outdated) medical research is infallible. That does everyone a huge disservice.

      • Amaryllis says:

        I love your reply here. It says everything that should be said, and more positively than I could manage! As a rant, it’s amazingly polite, detailed, and accurate. Bravo!

  13. Rebecca Heier says:

    I think that yes the corsetbmade her waist a bit smaller due to the cinching but I also know that the fullness and effect ofbthe skirt made it look even smaller than it really was.

  14. Amanda says:

    People don’t know much about corsets, so there’s certainly ignorance at play, and those of us who love them should feel free to educate. Lily James is gorgeous in a way that is unattainable for most of us. The corseted shape (though not the waist size) is probably one of the more attainable parts of her look in this film, really.
    But I doubt you’d see nearly as much concern if this wasn’t a movie based on a property that’s associated with kids. It’s not like people get upset about normal period dramas.
    This movie isn’t a lingerie photo shoot, a movie about pin-ups, or even a real period film — it’s a fairy tale fantasy about a character meant to appeal to young girls specifically. And for a lot of young girls, princesses (particularly of the Disney variety) represent idealized femininity. Cinderella is the most visible icon of princess culture and this film is being made by a company that makes billions of dollars off of that culture, so it’s not at all surprising that this film is under extra scrutiny.
    I think this particular situation brings up a lot of memories for women of feeling inferior or ugly as children because of the image of princessy perfection we see in films. You can scoff at it and say you don’t understand, but the constant barrage of the unreal masquerading as real in photoshopped images clearly wreaks emotional havoc on some of us, and the farther from that illusory norm a person is, the more it has the potential to make them feel like a freak. For some they’re just pretty pictures, but for others they contribute to lifelong body image issues, and no one wants that for themselves or for their children.

  15. Alice Black says:

    Don’t care about the mass media hysteria :) What a wonderful, colourful, sparkling, optical-illusion dress! And the actress looks so cheerful and pretty. I have watched the trailer a zillion times)) Immediately noticed that all the actresses wore real corsets, and I think this is great, cannot wait to see the movie.

  16. Louise says:

    I think another thing to look at is the time era that this story was written in, it was normal for women to be corseted.

  17. Bonnie M says:

    I have to disagree with several of your comments in the article
    “First, why do we really care that much about what (female) celebrities eat?”
    Because women, especially young women, emulate them to the point of killing themselves trying to attain the perfect body.
    “Exclusively for the time when she was corseted, she found soup easier to digest.”
    If one is cinched up so tightly that one can’t eat regular food due to discomfort, that, to me, is not good. First of all, it can’t be good for the body, even short-term. Secondly, is it THAT important to whittle a few inches off of the waist that one must forgo solid food? (Answer in the acting world – yes, a few more pounds off = fantastic!”
    The quote backs this up “I was constantly saying ‘You are eating, aren’t you, Lily? Let’s get Lily some soup please!” Even a normally clueless man was concerned, knowing that this was not natural.
    “While those who are campaigning against tiny waists may think they’re doing it “for the children!” it’s nothing more than another kind of body snark.” To say this politely, that’s B.S. If one is cinched so tightly that one can’t eat REGULAR food, and the director is concerned about one’s eating, and as a performer one is affecting young girls who will seek to imitate one with sometimes disastrous effect, it’s a bad thing.
    No one minds a little help, be it Spanx, food control, or a shaper. But let’s be sensible while doing so. Depriving an actress of solid food in an attempt to make them even more impossibly slim (the actress is always small-waisted. Is it absolutely necessary to whittle off even more? Why?) is unhealthy and unsafe and the message it sends to young women – heck, to any woman or man is dangerous.
    It’s not “snark,” it’s legitimate concern. No one is saying “toss the corset,” they’re saying “use it sensibly.”

    • Catherine says:

      “Because women, especially young women, emulate them to the point of killing themselves trying to attain the perfect body.”
      Are you sure about this? Because I worked with people with eating disorders for quite some time and though a cultural focus on valuing slenderness is associated with an increase in rates of ED’s, it’s not actually identified as critical in deaths from ED’s as far as I know. Certainly the deaths I came across generally seemed to be associated with trauma that was then expressed as an eating disorder for a variety of reasons.
      Are you referring to deaths from ED’s, or other phenomena?

    • Amaryllis says:

      I don’t think you can call Kenneth Branagh ‘a normally clueless man’. Firstly, are you saying all men are clueless? Ouch. Sexism and negative steriotypes, much? Or is it just that you assume Branagh, with his years working alongside corset wearing and costumed actresses, is clueless? I think you’ll find that he was appreciating that Lily’s nutritional needs were different from other cast members due to her costume. This is similar to the nutritional requirements of people wearing complex prosthetic make up, which are also often handled differently to other cast members. Also often involving liquid food.

  18. Lowana says:

    This is amazing Marianne. You’ve managed to spell it out so clearly. I agree 110% with what you’ve said in the article. THANK YOU for saying this.

  19. Ms. Pris says:

    I wouldn’t say that the controversy about the corset are body snark, but it’s certainly concern trolling. It’s about control and the fact that women’s bodies are considered to be public property.
    It’s clear that the ball gown waist is a bit smaller than in other costumed, and that is normal. I mean, I don’t wear shapewear every day, but I have worn it for formal events when I was wearing a tight dress.
    Also, why weren’t these same people flipping out when Christian Bale lost a ton of weight for “The Machinist”? That was really unhealthy and potentially damaging to his body, but the media covered it as though it were an amazing sacrifice for his art.

  20. Karen T says:

    I come at this from a completely different view point from you. As a woman of almost 40 years of age, with an unfortunate apple shaped body and a diagnosis of Body Dismorphic Disorder, I am the woman, the child, the teenager who sees that tiny corseted waist, who compares it to the protruding rounded Buddha belly that I have, and who feels overwhelmed with such hatred and disgust towards myself that I think about harming my stomach as a punishment for it not being what this picture says it should be.
    I am completely aware of the photoshopping that goes in to all the media images we see, and I can appreciate that the fullness of the skirt does add to the illusion of the waist being smaller than it is,but there is no denying that corseting does contort the natural waistline to give a false image of this area, and there are very few women who have this extreme shape naturally. To somebody with mental health issues and body perception issues, they will overlook the photoshopping in images, they won’t consider that this shape is not the norm and they will focus on the fact that corseting is designed to give the “perfect” female proportions, proportions that they will never have.

    • Liz says:

      Body image issues is a problem as old as history since women have long been valued by their appearance primarily. However, I think it’s a little extreme to blame self-hatred purely on clothing and actresses. We cannot blame the beautiful people or their garments for our own (perceived) faults. After all, off screen, they are people with their own unique set of problems. And in the case of corsets, it’s not a “false image.” True, very few women have that shape uncorseted, but Lily isn’t “lying” to us about her shape because she’s wearing a corset: that’s actually her real flesh and blood body, just in a special garment. I, too, am a tubular/apple shape and struggled with body dismorphic disorder in addition to anxiety disorder, but corsets actually helped me accept myself both in and out of them. I love my corsets because they allow me to have that curve I crave without using extreme diets or plastic surgery (assuming, of course, that one has done their research and practices it safely.). It’s not a lie any more than wearing heels lies about my height or wearing tights lies about the color of my skin. I have gotten to know my body much better since going through the corseting process! I’ve learned how my bad back made me feel crabby and ill which worsened my outlook on life, but a corset and a chiropractor helped relieve that pain. I’ve learned that it’s not the dress size (or corset size) that matters, but finding/making clothes that fit and look good despite the number on the pattern or tag. I’ve learned that the variety of bodies is infinite and natural and through the corset community, found so much positive body support not just for corseted waists, but natural ones, too. I found others with similar body shapes and anomalies who shared my frustrations and we bonded over our shared woes and triumphs alike. My experience with corsets has been overwhelmingly body-positive. I’m not saying everyone should try them or that everyone’s experience will be the same. But I am saying that corsets are not evil or to blame for poor body image. It’s how they are treated as fake/evil by society and how little the general public knows about them that’s made corsets seem so negative.

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