Women Drinking Tea and Getting Zapped!
Radiation Level: Shockingly High
Listening To: Ozomatli vs. KCRW Soundclash
The Electric Corset
When I stumbled on this advertisment from 1870, my imagination went crazy. The first thing I thought was OUCH! A corset that presumably shocks you while you wear it seemed a lot of kink for the 19th century. I conjured the image of Victorian women drinking tea and getting zapped. How did it work? Was there some type of battery attached? Tubes and wires? I gasped to think what might happen if she went walking in the rain.
It turns out that when electricity (then called electromagnetism) was first harnessed, like many new technologies, people were looking for ways to use it. And ways to make money. Just like corn here in the states. We have so much of it, we use it not just for food and feed, but to make sweeteners and bio-fuels. Well, a man named Dr. Scott decided to appeal to women’s vanity and claim health and beauty benefits from electromagnetism. I pondered the pros and cons of this product. Would I endure electric shocks to my bosom if it kept me thin and youthful?
Dr. Scott’s Electropathic Corsets and Belts were meant to “promote the circulation, to stimulate the organic action, to renew vital energy, and assist digestion,” according to an advertisement preserved in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
But his claims didn’t stop there. “By wearing these perfectly designed Corsets”, said Scott, “the most awkward figure becomes graceful and elegant, the internal organs are speedily strengthened,
And drum roll please…
THE CHEST IS AIDED IN ITS HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT!
My chest will develop? Sign me up!
Stimulating as it might sound however, none of it, including women walking around feeling like they’ve got an electric eel in their blouse, was true.
From the Victoria and Albert Museum website:
One particularly interesting example of a corset with supposedly health-giving properties was the electric corset which first appeared in advertisements in the 1870s and was improved in the 1890s. The word ‘electric’ referred to magnetism which came from the metallic composition of the garment.
Instead of whalebone, they used metal stays. Big whoop. I prefer my imagination of history to the actual history. I also prefer my imagination of my life to my actual life, especially on top of a little red wine. Gotta go, wine/imagination time.