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Quirk of history

Corsets were comfier than we think

The stars of Regency romp Bridgerton love to moan about how “painful and restricting” corsets are, says Hilary Davidson in Slate. New leading lady Simone Ashley complained to Glamour magazine that she had “problems eating, a lot of pain, and even thought she tore her shoulder” while wearing one. Even the show’s costume designer Ellen Mirojnick paints corset pain as inevitable, telling Refinery29: “of course, a corset will never be truly comfortable”.

“It’s simply not true.” Regency women enjoyed the “softest, most comfortable corsets for centuries”. The mistake is thinking that the goal of corsets was “waist reduction”. It wasn’t – corsets were an answer to the eternal female clothing question: what do you do with boobs? “Hide them? Squash them? Show them off?” In the Regency period, corsets were a way to comfortably support them in two soft fabric cups that held up the newly liberated bosoms “like two quivering oranges on a plate”. Bridgerton’s corsets are made – incorrectly – in a way that flattens the breasts so that they look like “rising dough”.