Sunday 31st December, 2023

Interesting conceptual art, I suggested in Multimodal AI Language Models and Corsets, could be created to dramatise the opposition between the freedom corsets give and the restriction they impose. Freedom by virtue of better posture and its social benefits; restriction because — well, that's how corsets do their job. What I hadn't known when I wrote that is that the restriction itself can be a positive; enjoyable, and therefore an advantage.

I've been reading Lucy Williams' book Solaced: 101 True Stories about Corsets, Well-Being, and Hope. Lucy, owner of the Lucy's Corsetry shop and website, collected 101 stories of the medical benefits people experienced while wearing corsets. Here is what contributor Daisy Rae writes in her chapter "Activation of the Manipura Chakra through the Pleasure of Corseting":

So just how do waist trainers describe the pleasure they gain from corseting? At the first tightening of the laces, I feel a strong and unique pleasure that does not seem to be related to life's other pleasures. What a wonderful feeling! It is almost as though that tightening pushes a magic button or flips a switch of contentment. This reaction is reported by other corset users, as you have by now read in earlier chapters.

This is an excellent summary of how I feel if someone else is lacing me up.

If I lace myself up, I still feel pleasure, but it rises more slowly. Perhaps the difference is related to the difference between being tickled, and tickling oneself. The pleasure seems to be caused, at least partly, by pressure on the small of the back, and on some sensitive area on each side of my waist, slightly forward of midside. It rises over time. I have difficulty finding words to describe it — as Daisy Rae says, it's strong, and unique in not being related to life's other pleasures. But it can make me feel "out of it", bathed in a warm haze of … what? Something that might be described as oceanic, perhaps. A little like the feeling I had in Berlin on one occasion when gazing at the riches of Museum Island after one strong espresso too many, or in Athens after another one too many. A friend asked how I was, and I shouted «Είμαι θαυμάσιος!» — "I am wonderful!" In both cases, perhaps my mind was overloaded not only by coffee but by the interest and richness of travel.

The need for the above-mentioned pressure means that the corset has to be flexible enough, and shaped so that, it dishes in and presses tightly on my waist, and reasonably tightly elsewhere. One that does is the long purple-and-silver corset shown in my Modelling post:

It also means that the corset needs to be tightly enough laced. I've only gradually worked out the best way to do this, and have just begun using the lacing pattern shown with the green border at Corset Lacing — How to Lace a Corset, for the reasons given by Lucy's Corsetry at Self-Lacing a Corset Without "Bunny Ears". It feels as though I'm now getting the corset properly tight all over for the first time, while being more confident about not breaking it, and perhaps that will increase the pleasure.

Other chapters from Solaced suggest that it might. Phoebe L., Corsetière writes in "Unconditional Beauty" that:

The process [of putting on and lacing up a borrowed corset] and garment itself were both fascinating and exhilarating. In fact, it was life-changing. I wore her corset for only one night and just a few hours. For that short time I was laced up as tight as I could possibly stand, yet I felt fabulous. When the night was over, I really didn't want to return my friend's corset.

And then there's this touching memory from Rebecca Gibson, PhD, "The Corseted Bioanthropologist":

I still own, and wear, my first corset. It's beautiful — an overbust, longline corset, double-sided: green-on-black brocade on one side and silver-on-silver brocade on the other. I found it at the Silverleaf Renaissance Faire in Galesburg, Michigan, when I was twenty. It's been fifteen years, but I still love it just as much as the day I bought it — a cloudless, dry, Midwest summer day. This was long before I knew of the problems with which corseting would help me, but that was no matter — I just loved the shape, the color, and the way it held my body — a boned satin lover clasping me tight in its embrace.