Why do we call it “Seasoning” your corset?
A few weeks ago someone asked where the word “seasoning” came from (in the context of corset seasoning).
I had looked up the etymology of the word “season” for kicks and giggles 2 years ago, but I hadn’t made a video about it at the time because, well, after my video/ article on intuitive seasoning I just got tired of talking about seasoning. People continued to argue about how to properly execute it, and it became like beating a dead horse. Some people prefer to follow a schedule, others don’t, that’s fine.
Where I disagree with some people is when they claim that seasoning is 100% for the person, and that the corset doesn’t change when worn over time (I’m of the opinion that it prepares a beginner’s body and the corset simultaneously). While I’m bored of this subject, I will probably make a video on it to explain why a person can pick up two corsets and they can still tell which one has been worn and which one hasn’t, even though both of their horizontal dimensions may still measure true.
But today, I’m focusing only on the etymology of the word “season”. It’s actually a bit romantic (just in time for Valentine’s Day, heh).
(And it has only a little to do with cinnamon and turmeric.)
Season: “a process of priming an object for a specific use”
This definition isn’t the first, but it is the most applicable – its use was first documented in the 1500s (close to the time that what we consider payres of bodies, the ancestor of corsets, was also first documented, coincidentally). However, the term “seasoning” was used more for timber: treating wood to be used for building, carpentry, etc. (Around the same time, “season” became slang “to make love to” a person or thing). Today, we still use “season” in this context for cookware: for example sealing and preparing a cast iron pan for a lifetime of use (baking oil into the pores of the iron, not sprinkling herbs into the pan).
So for over 500 years, to “season an object” has meant to prepare, prime, or ready that object for its intended use, and for 500 years has had sensual and gentle connotations.
If you don’t care about the other definitions of seasoning, you can stop watching the video here, but for those history buffs we can also discuss the other applications of the word “season”, starting with the Latin root from almost 1000 years ago.
Serere: “to sow” (and later Saison: “a period of time” e.g. seasons of the year)
The first definition of season came from the Latin word “to sow (a field)”. A specific period of time in which you perform a certain task. Sowing your field is also specific to a certain amount of labor or investment you put in and you expect to receive a return on your investment later on. In this context, seasoning your corset could mean that specific period of time where your body and the corset are getting familiar with one another, or putting in work in preparation for “harvest”, (in this case, priming your body to be able to tolerate waist training or larger corset reductions later on).
Assaisoner: “to ripen” and become ready for use
The most common modern definition of the word “season” is in context of flavors and spices. This came from the French word “assaisoner” which actually originated from the word “to ripen”. Unripe fruit starts out green and crispy, but over time as the fiber breaks down into digestible sugars, it becomes softer – more tender – and it’s quite tasty when it’s ripe. Adding herbs and spices to a meat or dish is a way of making it more palatable (and also softer/ more digestible after cooking it) and tastier.
When you get a new corset, particularly an off the rack corset, it tends to be pretty crispy – part of this is due to the thickness of the fabrics, the fact that the sizing (starches, pesticides and other chemicals in the fabric) wasn’t washed out before constructing the corset, and the number of layers – especially when it comes to OTR corsets, which can be 3-4 layers thick. But a “seasoned” corset makes it softer and less crispy (essentially “riper”) and it’s more comfortable for long term wear.
Also, wearing a corset gently also seasons you. I have gained flexibility in my oblique muscles, because the corset stretches these muscles. (Remember a curve is always longer than a straight line, so the more waist reduction my corset gives on the side, the more it curves inward, the more the oblique is being stretched. My body has been trained to tolerate this stretch over long durations and remain comfortable, so my body has become seasoned as well.)
Just as a mango is (ideally) plucked from the tree once ripe and it’s ready for consumption, so our bodies (and our corsets) when they’re seasoned and prepped, you’re ready to start training, if desired. Which leads nicely into the other context of seasoning, that being experience.
Seasoned by Experience (e.g. “a seasoned professional”)
A person who has a considerable amount knowledge, skill, or experience in a particular topic/ activity can be said to be “seasoned” – for instance a “seasoned pilot”. A well-loved and frequently-worn corset has, in a sense, gained the “experience” of fitting its its wearer – even after removing the corset, it retains the “memory” of the shape of its owner, all the curves, hills and valleys of their body. And of course, a person that wears corsets frequently or for many years can be called a seasoned corseter or seasoned lacer.
Any way you turn it, the word “season” works for corsets.
By contrast, consider the etymology of the word “break”
Of course, it’s considered more common to use the term “break in” with clothing, specifically shoes.
How ballet dancers break in their pointe shoes is interesting: they forcefully bend the instep, they hit the toe box against a hard surface like the floor (or they might just take a hammer to it), they tend to take a knife and score the sole, they may rip the shank to make it more flexible, etc. It makes your dance shoes much more comfortable, almost immediately, but dancers I’ve spoken with have told me that their shoes might last a few months at best, but many people go through several shoes for every performance – their shoes may not last a whole show.
Synonyms of break include: shatter, fracture, burst; injure, violate, destroy, disintegrate, disconnect, crush, pound, etc. Breaking in dance shoes is a relatively violent process, compared to breaking in a corset (which is basically just wearing it… just not quite as tightly as you plan to in the future).
Understandably, this is not what we associate with of the word “break in” today, and I don’t mind when anyone says that they “break in” their corset instead of season, because really in this context, the two are interchangeable. Even I use the terms interchangeably depending on the audience I’m speaking to, as some are more familiar with one term or the other.
I personally prefer to say season because it has soft, gentle, sensual, time-associated connotations throughout history. To me, the term “seasoning” seems more harmonious with my idea of corsets and what they represent.
But those who exclusively use the term “season” shouldn’t get hung up on the destructive connotations of the word “break”, and those who exclusively use the term “break in” shouldn’t get hung up on the culinary associations with the word “season”. This is how language flows and develops over time, and one term is not more correct than the other.
Do you prefer the term “season” or “break-in”, and why? Leave a comment below!