Did my title get your attention? I hope so! Today, I thought I’d “slip” back in history and discuss a little about underwear. Since I’ve been going through some of my fashion and clothing books to complete a bit of research, I thought I’d share a little about the history of women’s undergarments—the bustles, chemises, and crinolines. However, I quickly changed my mind when I discovered a cartoon of a man tying on a pair of “artificial calves,” an accessory introduced around 1770. The purpose was to accentuate the shapeliness of the male calf of the leg, which below the tight breeches of the period was regarded as ‘captivating.’ Who knew men’s calves were once considered captivating! Then again maybe they still are, and I just don’t know it.
After discovering the artificial calves, I couldn’t curtail my curiosity. I continued through the pages of men’s underwear and accessories and soon discovered the inventory of a gentleman’s linen consisted of more than nightshirts, nightcaps and drawers. During this same time period, men often wore corsets. Yep—you read that correctly: men wearing corsets. I discovered a quote from The Hermit in London, dated 1819 that states “He was dressed in the ultra pitch of fashion, collared like the leader of a four-horse team, and pinched in the middle like an hourglass, with a neck as long as a goose, and a cravat as ample as a tablecloth.” Doesn’t that paint quite a word-picture? Several pages later, I discovered another cartoon—a man gripping a bedpost while being laced into a corset by his butler. Amazing what a bit of research will reveal!
While at a historical writer’s retreat several years ago, I had the experience of being laced into a corset. I must admit that I wasn’t brave enough to have myself “pinched in the middle like an hourglass.” Instead, I opted for the shape of a Mason canning jar. The corset held my spine nice and straight and certainly changed the way I sat and walked. I think that’s why women of yesteryear always looked so proper. They couldn’t move, so they sat and smiled. Worst of all, my corset wearing experience took place at lunch time. I soon discovered you can’t eat much while wearing a corset. Talk about a bad case of acid reflux! You can rest assured that I insisted upon being unlaced before dessert was served.
In today’s world we’re bombarded with pictures and discussions of the perfect body image. Research proves this obsession with the perfect physical appearance is nothing new. We need only peek at a few history books to realize that both men and women have been striving to attain that perfect image for thousands of years. What if we spent as much time “clothing” our inner-selves by spending more time in prayer and studying the Word? We’d please our Lord, and the world would become a much lovelier place for all of us.
Blessings as you strive toward inner beauty.