When Sarah Chrisman’s husband presented her with a corset as a birthday present, she didn’t think much of the gift at first. Still, as a lover of history with curiosity aimed mostly at the Victorian era, she gave it a try. Four years later, she wears corsets nearly 24/7.
During the first year, she lost several inches around the waist, and furthered her transformation into a Victorian lady by sewing clothes that matched Victorian times. These days, those of us who live in Port Townsend see Sarah walking around town, with long skirts, parasol, gloves, and hats. Here, in a Victorian town with an annual Victorian festival, she blends right in!
As she continued to wear corsets, her migraines disappeared, and she has avoided back problems that plague others in her family. In person, Sarah radiates the peace and joy of someone who lives her truth. This isn’t a gimmick for her, but an authentic way of life. Isn’t that what we’re all seeking?
Sarah tells her story in Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me About the Past, the Present, and Myself. With intelligence and wit, she dispels myths about the corset and shares a fascinating and personal journey.
I own an original version of this book, which Sarah bound by hand in true Victorian fashion (it would take her about four hours to do so). The new hardback is also gorgeous to behold, complete with full-color photos that show Sarah’s transformation.
There was a time when I was younger when I stopped working on crafts such as knitting because we saw them as tools of oppression. Over time, I reclaimed my crafts and felt empowered as I did so, and I regretted those lost years when I let society’s opinions take me away from what brought me joy. Sarah has done the same with the corset, and I respect her for it. Though I doubt I’ll ever wear a corset on a regular basis (I do during our Victorian Festival), I appreciate her courage, her curiosity, and her willingness to be herself.
This sounds fascinating! I don’t think I’d wear a corset, but it’s interesting to imagine the reasons for doing so. I remember a time when handwork and crafts weren’t the things “enlightened” or modern women did. I think a lot of the joy came back when we realized we could CHOOSE to do these things and be fulfilled doing so.
I agree, and I think Sarah’s book is good for anyone who is trying to find and express their true self, in whatever form that takes. It feels so good to do handcrafts and other so-called women’s work that I enjoy.