We’ve probably seen more movies about the Victorian Era than we can count now on two hands since the beginning of cinema. And in each ensuing decade that recreated the Victorian age, they’ve progressively become more realistic in depicting the very uncomfortable clothing. While men had their coats, vests, and cravats, women had the most painstaking device ever made next to heels: The corset. Rather than fake a corset in a movie about the Victorian Era, far too many actresses have had to endure the realism factor and take on a corset in real life.
For some actresses, it’s been an overly harsh lesson in just how uncomfortable women were in those days. More than a few notable actress names have hardly been able to breathe in their corsets let alone barely able to walk or bend over to tie their shoes. A couple of actresses in the last couple of years were noted for complaining about their corsets, which begs the question why it’s done for the sake of realism.
Recent Actresses Who Took on the Worst Corsets
If you saw the remake of “Jane Eyre” a few years ago with Mia Wasikowska, then you saw evidence of how far some actresses go to wear clothing of the era. In interviews during the time of the filming, Wasikowska noted how tough it was to work in one of the most restricting corsets perhaps ever worn in a movie. With an already thin frame and still feeling uncomfortable, the realization of the torture women went through then seems almost unconscionable in belated hindsight. However, with Wasikowska wanting to inhabit the character of Jane, suffering in the real thing seems to be the new method acting.
The most recent example is the promising actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw who recently starred in the indie historical drama “Belle.” Playing the mixed-race daughter of a famous English aristocrat, she also decided to take on a crazy corset that she said made her barely able to breathe on the set. However, she also notes how much it changed her posture, which some think ultimately helps conform to a desired body shape. In the late 1800s, it was the only explainable reason for wearing corsets, and there might be a small piece of the Victorian Era still with us based on a recent new trend.
Notable Women Wearing Real-Life Corsets to Tone Bodies and Posture
Recently, there’s been a spate of notable women starting to wear corsets again as method toward getting their bodies in the shape pop culture wrongfully dictates. Combined with a diet and exercise program, it’s said that newly designed corsets are helping some women get better shapes to the bodies they want. In fact, social media is starting to light up with non-famous women showing personal photographs while wearing corsets. There’s the thought that what worked in the Victorian Era can still work today within some reason. While maybe they aren’t quite as constrictive as they were in the 1800s, some women are swearing by the results.
Medical experts, though, are starting to warn women that they shouldn’t be copycatting the corset concept. The reason is because they work much differently from the orthopedic braces that many previously wore to correct posture. Regardless, the latter braces work directly on the bones, while corsets only work on soft tissue. Doctors are saying it’s also only a temporary fix, even if the corsets stay popular because they give an immediate shape to the body.
With recommendations that women simply do proper diet and exercise to get rid of a waist they don’t want, should there also be a new warning about actresses wearing corsets on a film set?
The Dangers from Not Breathing Well
Proof that wearing a corset cuts off proper breathing in actresses only deteriorates an actress’s health rather than improves it. While everyone gets points for taking on method acting, anything that harms the health shouldn’t be done for the sake of realism in movies. The fact is that wearing corsets in movies isn’t giving women any benefits to make it worth the effort.
Perhaps those health concerns get covered up for the sake of bringing realism to period dramas. But now we’ll have to see if other actresses will be willing to take on corsets again or if someone will design one that gives the illusion of constriction rather than the real thing. Wasikowska is still taking on a few Victorian Era movies, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw may not stay completely away from them either. We’ll only hope they see the reality of how harmful corsets really are before being convinced that acting means painfully inhabiting the past.