A Dead Fashion Trend that Needs to Stay Dead

Becca Stout ’20, Guest Writer

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Over the summer, I worked at what one Dickinson professor described as, “a pragmatic job” as opposed to the internships that many of my fellow peers participated in. I spent my summer working at a higher end fashion company at my local mall.

Arguably, I learned just as much as I would have in a traditional internship. I learned quite a bit about organization, perfection, customer service, and most importantly—fashion. Yes, really.

Now, I have never been a fashionista by any standards, nor have I ever cared about trends or what is “in style.” Honestly, I never even wanted to play dress up or dress dolls as a kid. Fashion wise, all I ever cared about was if something looked good on me and if it was appropriate for certain events or everyday life. I would blissfully shop through clearance racks marked at 50% off thinking it was such a steal because who cared if it was last season’s or even last year’s style.

However, throughout the course of this summer, I gained an understanding of all the current trends and how people look and feel when they wear them. I have also learned to love going through shipment and identifying all the new trends as I hung clothing up to be displayed, which is why I was so disheartened by the end of the summer to see the emergence of the “corset top.”

Compounded with that was the fact that only a select few tiny sizes were available, making this trend only wearable for the smallest women. While I appreciate all fashion as individual expression, this new trend that I started to see in all retail stores, really struck a chord with me. How could something with such a history of endangering the health of women be brought back without thought in 2017?

Historically speaking, corsets were tight garments worn by many middle to upper class European women, designed for them to achieve an ideal body shape that would be celebrated by society. This image, known as an “hourglass shape,” is known for its large chest, extremely slender torso, and wide hips.

To achieve this body shape, the fabric was so tight that breathing and moving was nearly impossible. Because women wore these garments during maturity and throughout their adult lives, corsets worked by having the woman’s body grow to fit the tightly tied torso shackle. This resulted in the mutilations of torsos and underdeveloped rib cages, along with many other related health problems.

Even Hollywood portrays corsets as negative to women’s health in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl, in two distinct scenes. The first scene is when the maids are helping tie up Elizabeth Swan’s corset, while her father tells her it is a trend in London. She gasps in pain at each pull and responds, “Then women in London must have learned not to breathe.” In the second and more dramatic scene, she loses her breath, faints, and falls over the cliff into the water. While dramatized, fainting and problems breathing were commonplace with corsets.

To be fair, today’s corset tops are nothing like this. Many of them are looser fitting tops, some even slouchy. Even the super tight ones are nowhere near as restrictive and are made of a much stretchier material.

That being said, the idea of the reemergence of such a style that has a history of inflicting pain on women just for them to achieve a sought-after body shape to please society is disturbing. I can’t help but think that, in a world in which the President of the free world discounts his own discussion of bragging about sexual assaults he has committed as nothing more than locker room talk and rates the appearances of women, the corset top is symbolic of the severe and swift loss of centuries worth of women’s strides forward in gaining a more equal society. In today’s political climate, women cannot accept such a demeaning trend as to tell women how they need to look to be a “ten.” Women should be accepted in society regardless of body shape and not feel shameful for not having the “perfect” body.

So please, women of Dickinson, next time you go shopping for a new trend, go for the cold shoulder or the cutout or even the cropped tee. Please do not perpetuate the idea that women need to have a certain body for them to be desirable or even accepted in society. Because, in the end, regardless of what you wear or how you wear it, all that matters is that it makes you feel beautiful.