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Interview with Sarah Chrisman of “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself”

In March 2014, after the blogger conference at Orchard Corset headquarters, some friends and I took the ferry to visit Port Townsend and stay with Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman. For those who don’t remember, Sarah Chrisman is the author of “Waisted Curves”, which I had reviewed last year. Since then, the corset has been officially published by Skyhorse and renamed “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself“. During our brief visit, Sarah gave us a walking tour of Port Townsend, allowed us to study her and Gabriel’s large collection of antique artifacts an read some original Victorian and Edwardian literature, cooked up a feast for my friends and myself, and sat down for an interview. It was a quick but packed weekend!

I enjoyed seeing first-hand Gabriel and Sarah’s ongoing life project; how they’ve already placed Tesla lightbulbs in their house and use oil lamps at night; they own a wood-burning oven and they are working on refurbishing a vintage ice-box to replace their refrigerator – which leads into their aim of eating locally and seasonally, growing their own food, and wasting as little as possible.

Below you’ll find the interview in full on my Youtube channel! Scroll down below the video to see the list of the questions.

  • It’s been several years since you’ve written your memoir; how has life changed for you since then? Has your book been received well?
  • Are you recognized more often in your hometown? When you travel? If so, do you enjoy being recognized?
  • Have any of your friends and family been inspired to use a corset after seeing your own personal journey? Have you found yourself becoming a mentor to others in lifestyle corseting?
  • What are some reasons that you and Gabriel love Victoriana and the Victorian way of living, or what important lessons could the layperson learn from this? (e.g. adornment, the mannerisms, a possible economic or ‘greener’ lifestyle, the tendency to mend/ repair instead of dispose, etc.)
  • It must be wonderful having a supportive partner who shares your tastes and passions. Who do you think was the instigator to move from simply ‘collecting’ antique items to really living as if you were in the era?
  • Has Gabriel experienced any personal growth during these years that you have been transforming?
  • If you had to pin down a specific year or decade where most of your style or your favorite pieces come from, what would that be?
  • You mentioned in your book that you used to do martial arts. Do you still do that? What are some of your other favorite pastimes apart from reading, writing and bicycling?
  • What are your ambitions for the future? Are there plans for a “Victorian Secrets Part 2”  in the future?

Huge thanks to Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman for their incredible hospitality and for kindly answering our questions!
If you’d like to learn more about Sarah’s book “Victorian Secrets”, find it on Amazon here.

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Corsets, Posture and Confidence (it’s not all about size)

In the past, I’ve discussed at length the effects that the corset can have physically on the body, but up until now haven’t discussed how it can affect your mental and emotional state. In this article, I will discuss how corsets can directly affect your confidence and your interactions with others. You may also view my video version of this article, if you prefer not to read:

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Let me preface this by saying that a corset can affect one’s positive self-image, without feeding into society’s warped views on weight and its relation to social hierarchy. So many people chide corseters, presuming that our own confidence stems directly from changing or lying about our figures. This couldn’t be a more misinformed frame of mind.

 I will start with my own personal experience in this sense, and go on to discuss the science behind this.

Continue reading Corsets, Posture and Confidence (it’s not all about size)

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“Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself” by Sarah A. Chrisman — an Overview

I admit it. I’m terrible at book reviews. So many years of working in biology labs have conditioned me to treat every publication the same way: study, jot notes, report results relevant to my own research. Opinions are frowned upon by the Board. (At least I got to sneak in some alliteration.)

My video review, despite being 13 minutes long, feels painfully short and superficial. In reality, the raw footage of the review was over an hour long, wherein I combined Chrisman’s research and experiences with my own and discussed possible (soft) conclusions to certain questions regarding physical, psychological and societal impacts of wearing a corset. Alas, most people these days don’t have 13 minutes to spare, nevermind an hour.

This book used to be called “Waisted Curves: My Transformation into a Victorian Lady” and was self-published and hand-made – Chrisman carefully hand-folds each page, sews them together, and binds the cover in your choice of cloth, silk or leather — the way that books were made in the Victorian era. Due to the print or weave on the cover fabric, no two books are exactly the same. You kind of feel the love and the labour emanating from this. The price of this book, $40 for cloth-bound and $49 for either silk or leatherbound, is well-justified just by how much work must have gone into assembling the book itself — but the contents inside are worth much more.

Now the book has been picked up by a publisher, it has changed its name to “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself” and is available on Amazon.

The book is essentially a memoir of Chrisman’s first year (and a few months extra) of corset training – in this time, her waist is reduced from 32” uncorseted to 22” corseted – she changes the way she carries herself, and her style of dress so that essentially she is transformed into a “Victorian lady” by the end of the book. If this book were made into a movie trailer, I have a feeling that it would look like a typical “transformation” or “make0ver” movie (e.g. Clueless, She’s All That, Teen Witch, Princess Diaries, etc). Let me tell you now that those movies are garbage compared to this book. “Waisted Curves…” is a non-fiction, first-hand account of what it’s really like to make such a transformation (not only in appearance but also in health, grace and building one’s knowledge) – it’s not an overnight change, and it’s not without its challenges.

A not-so-brief summary of events (SPOILER ALERT)