I really want to get a corset. I think they’re really pretty, and I like the look of a nipped waist. But my best friend and my mom keep telling me that corsets are unfeminist because they represent everything women have been and should be fighting against. I am totally a feminist, but I don’t see the problem with wearing a corset, especially if I don’t lace it too tight. Am I a bad feminist because I like the look of restrictive garments? —A., 17, Florida
First of all, as far as whether wanting a corset makes you a “bad feminist”: Certainly not! It’s your body, and you have the right to wear what you like. People will always have something to say about women’s clothing choices regardless of what you wear: You’re either “not sexy enough” or “not empowered” or “not feminist” or whatever. It’s a catch-22.
I love restrictive harnesses and leather, so I’ve thought about this a lot myself! Corsets do have a questionable history—one that you’re going to be confronting every time you lace one on. Corsets and other Victorian-era clothes that we see in the movies were mostly worn by aristocratic women (who else could afford to wear like six layers of clothes and underwear on a daily basis?), so they carried associations of class distinctions. Women belonging to different social classes in the Victorian era wore different kinds of corsets as a way to strengthen and protect the socioeconomic hierarchy. And, as you mention, corsets also speak to a certain idea of the feminine body ideal in many cultures, i.e., a nipped-in waist and an hourglass silhouette. But it’s not like this ONLY applies to corsets—we have plenty of clothing today that’s meant to distort, “improve,” and otherwise reform the shapes of our bodies to fit the ideals surrounding us, like shapewear, boned or darted bodices, bias-cut garments, A-line and babydoll dresses…the list could go on and on. You have to give yourself permission to wear what you like and remember that it’s your choice. Feminism isn’t a rigid set of rules to follow in order to become the “best feminist” you can be. Everyone has different experiences and histories and circumstances and preferences when it comes to clothes and to life in general. If you wanna wear a corset, go ahead and do it—and feel good about it.
I also want to take a minute to to debunk some myths about corsets. First, they won’t mess up your ribcage or anything. Our ribcages are fairly flexible, and unless you wear a super-restrictive corset 24/7 for a long time, your bones will return to their natural dimensions when you take off the corset. Second, no Victorian women ever had ribs removed to fit into their corsets, according to Valerie Steele, my favorite fashion historian, who debunks a bunch of medical myths about corsets in her book The Corset: A History. In fact, when worn correctly, corsets don’t have any long-term bad effects on your health! You can see X-rays of corseted bodies and learn more about corset safety over here if you’d like to learn more.
Getting familiar with the history of the corset will equip you with knowledge that will help you defend your sartorial preferences. If you decide to ignore your mom and your best friend and do you (which is what I’d do, personally), it’ll be good to know the facts about what you’re wearing and to be able to teach others about the history of what you’re wearing—and that’s always fun, I think!
I would suggest reading up on different kinds of corsets to find the type that’ll be most comfortable and low-maintenance for you. My friend Cora lists great resources about corsets and other lingerie on her website that will probably help you a lot! Here are some options to look at in the meantime:
I want to wear a dramatic cat-eye, but whenever I try to draw one with liquid eyeliner, it ends up looking too scary, dark, and intense, and I panic and wipe the whole thing off. How do you apply the right amount of liquid liner, in the right shape for a classic cat-eye? —Ariel
Freehand drawing with liquid eyeliner is tough as heck when you first set out to do it, so don’t be discouraged—I have plenty of terrifying photos of myself at 15 with smeary, uneven winged lines that may have actually been thicker than my actual eyelids. I’ve since become more precise, but that took a lot of practice (and a lot of nights out during which my style direction might be most appropriately described as “smudged-up sex raccoon”). The frequency with which my friends were maternally licking their fingers and wiping black smears off of my forehead, cheeks, and, in extreme cases, jawline, was at its lifetime high. While that’s sweet at first, a girl can get tired of being covered in a combination of cloudy trails of Wet n Wild Extreme Black Liquid Action Cat Action (or whatever) and other people’s saliva. It was not my greatest makeup look.
While I’ll also give you tips about how to get better at liquid eyeliner in just a second, I’d like to first recommend that, in order to avoid a spit-covered raccoon scenario similar to my own, you try something a bit less labor-intensive and harder to fuck up (and, trust me, just about every other kind of makeup is harder to fuck up than liquid liner). Has anyone suggested gel eyeliner to you? It typically comes in a little pot, is applied with an angled eyeliner brush, and is somewhere between a solid and a liquid, formulation-wise. It goes onto your lids smoothly without going all over the place like liquid eyeliner is prone to do. You can learn how to put it on in the second video here at around the 3:50 mark. If you want to make things EVEN SIMPLER, use gel liner in conjunction with this amazing five-second Scotch tape template dreamed up by Rookie contributor Jane Marie for the Hairpin. Her tutorial is a total game-changer and makes attaining cat-eyes almost as easy as it would be if you were born an actual feline:
If you’d like to master liquid, too, which has its benefits (the colors tend to appear more intense, and your lines will look super-polished when they’re done correctly), you can check out the fourth video in this Face-ics, where I take you through the careful application of liquid liner at the three-minute mark. Some additional tips: Choose a product with a super-fine brush as opposed to a felt tip so that you have more control over where the liner’s going. In terms of how to shape your wing, look at the outer corner of your lower lash line and imagine if it extended further up your face—that’s where you’re going to put your first line of the cat-eye after drawing liquid liner as closely as you can to your lashes along the rest of your upper lid. Do a continuation of your lower lash line with your brush, then connect that with the line on your upper lid like you’re filling in a skinny little triangle (because you are). Here’s a diagram I found that shows you what I mean.:
Now go snack on some fish skeletons and shit in a box! I mean, go feel like Audrey Hepburn or whatever! X ARS ♦
If you have a question for Marie’s Fashion Club (what we would call DGYLYG contributors if they were the leads in an ’80s book series for pre-teens), send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your first name (or nickname) and where you live.