On Belting and Corseting

March 2nd, 2011 § 43 comments

2 March 2011 - Belt Week


Striped top – Banana Republic, hand me down
Dress – thrifted and chopped by me
Belt – thrifted
Tights – TJMaxx
Pendant – Anthropologie (the original chain broke and I thrifted a ‘new’ chain for it)
Loafers – Michael Kors, thrifted
Bike – 1970s Peugeot Mixte


In thinking about how belting has been discussed on our site and on other blogs, I can’t help but draw parallels between the debate on ‘belting’ and the discourse around ‘corseting’ today and in the past. Perhaps you haven’t given this particular comparison much thought but since I am devoting a chapter of my dissertation to the practice of corseting, I don’t even know how to contain the thoughts I have on this to one little post. So I will try…

Ready to up the nerd factor?

Here it goes: Corseting is as much a topic of contention and debate in modern scholarship as it was at the time that it was being practiced. Writings and arguments about the corset – then and today – fall into either of two categories; the corset as tool for the oppression and subjugation of the female body or the corset as symbol of freely expressed sexuality and empowerment. Nineteenth-century medical opinions, popular writings, and fashion advertisements competed as voices of authority on what the corset meant in terms of function and its signification. Today, scholars are equally at odds in how to read this symbol. Most writings fall into either of the two above mentioned camps; first, those that denounce the corset as yet another example of how the female body was molded and coerced into an artificial and man-made object of desire and, second, those that argue for the corset as a symbol of autonomy, self-determination, and sexual empowerment.

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this in terms of belting? It seems that both in the comments we have received in the past and in discussions on other blogs, the belt has fallen victim to a similar debate. Is belting a way to draw attention to an idealized ‘hourglass’ female body? (One that of course is not representative of many body shapes). Or is it a way to enhance and showcase a particular aspect of one’s appearance in an act that is empowering and self aware? And what happens when I use my belt to showcase my ‘baby bump’ in an obvious flaunting of something that is commonly thought of as a symbol of maternity and domesticity? But what happens when I am doing that while owning the title ‘feminist’ on this blog and publicly discussing my involvement in academia and the workplace? (And to further complicate that – while biking to work and posing next to my bike for these pictures?).

2 March 2011 - Belt Week

To briefly return to the corset – did you know that the corset also played volatile role in conjunction with the pregnant body? While there were corsets meant for pregnant women, there are documented cases of women wearing non-maternity corsets to attempt abortion through tight-lacing. It’s easy to see then why the corset was (and still is) largely demonized as an object of immorality and sexual deviance. This, however, does not take into account the other ways that corseting can be read in relation to motherhood and pregnancy. Becoming a mother (or parent) is not for everyone. That seems to be a more accepted way of thinking today but certainly wasn’t for many centuries when women were reduced to their reproductive capabilities and often only seen as extensions thereof. According to art historian and cultural critic David Kunzle, the practice of corseting in the face of charges of immorality and anti-motherhood (in general and not only when matters of abortion came into play), can be read as a powerful message from women refusing to be visually marked as ‘maternal’, ‘domestic’, and ‘naturally feminine’. Their adoption of the corset challenged the notion that these former categories were fixed and essential and the only way that a women ‘should’ be.

Well, if you’re still with me on this, then here is my conclusion: I agree with critics such as Kunzle who argue that there is no one way of interpreting the corset and its pluralistic function in our society, past and present. Neither do I believe in vilifying the belt for enforcing a certain type of body aesthetic since it can have many functions based on context and situation. In this case, I’m using a belt to bring definition to an otherwise shapeless dress in order to communicate that I am proud of my bourgeoning baby bump and my position as a working woman who has also chosen motherhood for herself.

And let’s be honest, this thrifted dress really needed a belt and a good five inches chopped off the bottom, right?

2 March 2011 - Belt Week Thrifted dress - the "Before" shot

I would love to hear from you if you have given ‘belting’ any kind of theoretical consideration and whether you’ve found yourself objecting to belting or embracing it despite/because of certain associations or ideas? ~S.

>Stripes and Squares Loafers

And what kind of academic would I be if I didn’t leave you with a few resources for further reading should you be intrigued by the topic of corseting and fashion thory…

Steele, Valerie. The Corset. A Cultural History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Kunzle, David. Fashion and Fetishism. A Social History of the Corset, Tight-Lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture in the West. Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield, 1982.

Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeoisie. A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. Trans. Richard Bienvenu. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Summers, Leigh. Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset. New York: Berg, 2001.

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§ 43 Responses to On Belting and Corseting"

  1. HokieKate says:

    Fascinating. Your dissertation sounds so much cooler than mine. I became pregnant just as I was becoming aware of the belting trend, so I didn’t have much time to explore it. Now that my belly has developed, I have considered if/when I will try belting to show off my bump. So, an association with embracing my shape makes me want to consider belting. I’m still very timid about non-earring accessories, so we’ll see how it goes.

    • HokieKate says:

      Oh, and I would love to hear your thoughts about post-partum belly binding in relation to corsets and idealized figures.

  2. Katja says:

    I actually like the unaltered dress much better – the long line looks nicer to my eye.

    For myself, my clothing doesn’t communicate sexuality and/or promiscuity due to shaping (whether belting, wearing shapewear, or just tailoring) – it takes revealing body parts (low cut cleavage, high cut on the thighs, baring the midriff) for me to get there.

    I am wondering about the term “baby bump”, which all of the AC contributors seem to use. I find it very jarring – perhaps this is a generational thing. Where did the term come from? My own youngest child is 20, and I’m pretty sure I never heard it when I was carrying.

    • Jackie says:

      I first heard it used in tabloids that were speculating if celebrity’s were pregnant due to a small and open to interpretation rounder tummy, or “bump.” I think it is mainly used to describe the belly of a first or second trimester woman, that stage between no belly and obviously pregnant belly.

      I find it cute.

    • Charlotte says:

      What bothers me most is when “bump” is used to refer to the baby herself – my sister signed her Christmas cards “Husband, Sister, and Bump”.

      Not a fan.

  3. Ooo, very fascinating! I’ve somehow missed this mini-controversy over the politics of belting; the only fuss I’ve ever seen came from the discussion over wearing belts in order to keep pants/a skirt up vs. wearing it as an accessory that doesn’t serve such a function.

    I am someone whose body does not suggest idealized womanhood (very small breasts, parallel lines rather than an hourglass shape, etc.), and I genuinely like my body. Part of my enjoyment of my own body comes from dressing it and playing with the potential for suggesting a variety of shapes. I have a long torso and often like to emphasize that fact, while other times, I’ll play up my legs and make them look longer. The same can be said for my (non)curviness. I will regularly dress in a way that highlights or even exaggerates my pre-pubescent-esque frame, but I also like to work with proportion, detailing, accessorizing to create the illusion of more curves. That might mean using a padded bra (though this practice is becoming very rare for me – they’re so uncomfortable!) or, yes, a well-placed belt.

    If I were consistently dressing in ANY particular way that was motivated by a perceived need to cover up my body’s realness, by a discouragement over how pitiful my body is in comparison to the ideal, then I think that would be problematic. Incessant belting could be a symptom, I suppose. But the motivation is key. In short, I think the frequency of one’s belting (or another style choice) and the motivation behind it can suggest whether it’s being used as a tool to reinforce the traditional-yet-limiting standard of feminine bodies OR as a tool of personal empowerment and self-definition. Of course, the frequency and motivation are both things that only the individual woman can have secure knowledge about, making it yet another area where personal choice is paramount.

    (…end academic talk, begin style talk…) I really love this getup! The red tights and loafers are casually sublime. Definitely looking forward to mimicking you during some future pregnancy.

  4. Sarah says:

    From someone who used to wear corsets for their job as a costumed guide, it is very constricting but also very much a way to bring your sexuality to the fore front. I don’t know that I could really offer any analysis about women felt historically but I do know that I choose to belt my outfits to create a silhouette I like and feel comfortable with. Sometimes I play up my womanly curves and other times, I don’t. I love that you put the idea of the two together and always enjoy reading this kind of post.

  5. Sarah says:

    I love this outfit – the dress is amazing (and looks totally different with your adaptations!). I’ll definitely be looking around my local charity shops with a beady eye for a similar dress now, although I admit I wouldn’t have thought of adapting it in this way before I saw your post.

  6. Amy says:

    And this is why I love you guys. Girls? Way to jump in to the gender debate through colloquial language!

    I’ve been aware of this phenomenon, vaguely, for the past year or so, as belting has become increasingly ubiquitous. It seems like every style mag and blog was showcasing the belt to “show off your womanly body!” To mean, the interesting thing has been the divide in how they use those words–they’re either trying to tell curvy/large/busty/hippy women that they can be beautiful by showing off their waist, or they’re trying to tell slender/skinny/flat/square women that they can be beautiful by creating a waist. It seems like each message speaks to an idealized figure of woman, and that the message still remains to alter your body instead of embracing it. That being said, I think it’s a much healthier message than the other extreme, that beauty is only found in slenderness. However, the message does seem to be Victorian, and your connection to the corseting debate is spot on. Personally, I belt most of my outfits because I happen to love accentuating my waist, and because I think the aesthetic is both healthy and stylish. However, I realize that when I cinch that belt on in the morning, that I’m definitely part of both a fashion trend and a social image manifestation.

    Regarding the maternity belting–well, that’s another debate entirely, it seems. I’m reminded of one of E.’s pregnancy posts, when she discusses how it felt to belt below the bump. I think we’re lucky (those of us who are having children right now) to live in a time when fashion and social mores embrace the bump instead of asking us to hide it.

    …love the red tights, love the shortened dress, love the braided belt, love the bike! Such a sweet but sophisticated take on traditional schoolgirl style.

  7. i didn’t know almost any of this history of the corset, nor its resonance with belting today, so this was an especially fascinating post to read! i wonder after reading this, if belting is/can be considered falling victim to a demand for a “conventional”/idealized hourglass shape, then what do we make of the trends of those poofy dresses without any shape? do they recall the shortness and shapelessness of flapper dresses, also used to resist the historical insistence on women’s bodies fitting a certain shape?
    (p.s. i love the thrifted dress! i would have walked past it, but chopped and belted, it just looks stunning–i’ll have to be more imaginative in the aisles of goodwill!)

  8. spacegeek says:

    This is slightly off topic, but another piece of thought about maternity and dressing. I have been intrigued by the trend of showing the “bump” as it is now called, with form-fitting clothing. I recall when pregnancies were not showcased quite as much as now. I am not sure how I feel about it, but can see how it might be empowering.

    I guess I spent so much of my schooling years trying to focus on the brain and reducing the rest of the body that celebrating womanhood (and the very female act of pregnancy) makes me a bit uneasy. As one of 10 female graduate students in a program of 100 students, being female was not an advantage. The one in ten ratio still holds for most of the work I do now as well, but I’m older and more confident in my reputation and abilities at this point. I can now embrace my womanhood in a way I never did before. I wonder if you all are just more confident that I was “at your age” or is it something else?

    Good post–made me think!

    • HokieKate says:

      I have two degrees in engineering so far, and I am working on my third. My field averages 15 percent women. To me, I have embraced dressing femininely to avoid losing myself in androgyny. I am also 5’10″, so I was self-conscious as a child about not looking like the other tiny girls. As I teach engineering students this semester, I want to show them (male and female) that a pregnant woman can be a competent engineer, leader, and woman.

      I would also like to thank you and all of the women that have entered male-dominated fields in the past decades. You have made it so much easier for those of us that have come after.

    • e. says:

      I’m curious if anyone can suggest when, how, and why this shift towards dressing to “show off” or accentuate a pregnant belly emerged. Is it related to popular fascination with celebrity pregnancy? Is it feminist achievement? Is it just part of cyclical fashion? I’m not sure. I know that I find a more fitted silhouette to be more flattering on my pregnant body, but I’d also readily admit that my aesthetic is culturally shaped.

      I found it very empowering to be unapologetic about my pregnant shape the last time around. In a university setting — where it sometimes seems that administrators and professors would be more comfortable if we were all just floating heads without bodily functions — it was important to me to not try and conceal the fact that I had a body and that it was doing something pretty extraordinary. Of course, this emphasis on embodiment also relates to my own research, which considers corporeality, subjectivity, and empathy in contemporary art.

      • Terri says:

        I seem to recall that the shift happened in the mid-90s. I remember that it was startling to me as an older academic when a colleague wore form-fitting maternity clothing.

        • Michelle says:

          My mom, who was pregnant in the early 80′s CONSTANTLY expresses her jealousy over the maternity clothes I wear. She says she felt like she had to be hidden away when she was so happy to be pregnant.

          I couldn’t wait to show off my belly. Having strangers say nice things (Congrats!, whatnot) to me is the best part of being pregnant. The rest of it is miserable and only tolerable because I know (For certain, this time around) that it’s completely and totally worth it. Last time, I only had the guess that it would be worth it.

  9. Jackie says:

    Very interesting!
    I would have made that connection. I don’t usually “belt” but that’s cause I don’t really own a good belt for that purpose, and my department is so laid back that the fact I wear something other than jeans occasionally is pretty out of the ordinary.
    I think its impossible to fit belting or corsetting into either feminist or anti-feminist category. The act itself is (in my opinion), neither. The reasons behind choosing to perform that act could be either. While some women may be influenced by a societal need to conform to gender ideals, other women may not be influenced in that same manner. The cultural influences are there regardless, but it is impossible to from them extrapolate the intentions of the individual when the individual decided to partake in that practice. I would think, though, that one could draw the conclusion that the practice would not have developed apart from a cultural preference for the hourglass figure. But that does not mean that every woman who choses to belt or corset is merely submitting herself to the whims of cultural preference.

    It’s amazing what you did with that dress!

  10. Sarah V. says:

    I’m not into belts unless necessary for keeping pants up. I’m not really interested in emphasizing the hourglass-ness of my figure; I actually find that I really need to downplay it, or I risk looking too sexual. I have a pretty large bust in proportion to the rest of me (I’m 4’11″, and 32E).

    I don’t know… in general, I just feel like sometimes “shapeless” dresses or outfits that don’t “define the waist” get bashed as ugly or unattractive because they don’t work to emphasize this one body shape. I’m also not into high waisted skirts or tucking in tops, for similar reasons. I guess belts are really popular? I don’t think I’ve ever even owned a belt.

  11. Evie says:

    Your dissertation sounds fascination!

    To me, wearing a belt has very little to do with my own body shape and even less with cultural preferences. It’s true that I have an hourglass shape and a fairly small waist, but I actually don’t find hourglass shapes all that appealing (not to say that I find them unappealing; I just don’t think that they are as wonderful as people make them out to be). My decision to wear a belt is dictated by the visual or practical aspects of the outfit rather than by the desire to make it accentuate my body. Instead of thinking that the belt will make my waist look great, I think that the cardigan needs to be held in place, that a large block of color or a pattern needs to be broken up a bit, or that a top and a bottom look too jarring next to each other and a belt would provide a better transition. My body is kind of an afterthought.

  12. Amanda B. says:

    This is an interesting topic- I hadn’t made that connection in the past.

    I think what is key for me is whether belting (or corseting) feels like a choice or an obligation. If women are free to choose whether they would like to emphasize or downplay their curves, then there is no harm in them doing either. However, if they feel that they MUST represent themselves one way or another (either to attract attention, or to demand respect), then that signals a potential problem.

    Of course, the concept of “choice” in dressing is always somewhat limited, because there are always expectations and ramifications for how we present ourselves. But, for the most part, I feel that belting will not affect my life in any substantive way- it doesn’t change my thesis advisor’s level of respect for me, for example. As a result, I see it as a choice, just another way to explore my subjective visual proportions.

  13. Cynthia says:

    I’ve given belting a lot of theoretical consideration. I do belt at the waist (fashion blogger peer pressure, dontcha know) sometimes, and I acknowledge it looks good when I do. But my favorite belted silhouette is a low, heavy, wide belt on my hips. I spend a lot of my free time with belly dancers and there’s definitely an alternative aesthetic there that has nothing to do with rejecting femininity. In fact, it’s fantastically hot. I feel much less awkward, and (if we must go there) sexier wearing a hip belt that emphasizes the badaboom than a tight cinched waist belt. Some of them even feel like they’re smooshing my innards, but my belly is extraordinarily sensitive to that. It’s just not the current media-pushed ideal though, and mainstream, non-freakwear looks that make that silhouette are harder to come by. If it was easier I would tune my whole wardrobe to this aesthetic. I just spent a whole weekend with women wearing layers held down by wide heavy hip belts (or choli tops and hip belts if you like that bare belly thing). I bought a wide olive green belt embellished with hardware that is nothing like what my corner of the blog world wears.

  14. Trystan says:

    I hadn’t thot of the belt / corset connection before, but now that you mention it, yeah, I think there’s something going on. Certainly one of the main fashion functions of a belt is to delineate the waist & create a more feminine shape — same as a corset. The belt just does it in a more illusionary way than a hard, constrictive manner.

    I sometimes wish ppl who write academically about corsetry would spend some (more?) time wearing corsets bec. you learn a lot from the practice. My main hobby is creating & wearing historical clothing of the upper classes from the 16th to 19th century, & I’ve worn a variety of corsets & boned garments for long periods of time over the past 20+ years. Properly fitted, these garments are not uncomfortable, but they are restrictive, & you realize how they were definitely markers of class & wealth more than anything. Lower-class women had to do more physical labor inside & outside of the home so they simply could not wear heavily boned, restrictive garments. And, then as now, far more ppl were poor than wealthy. So a tightly corseted woman was in the minority in most eras.

  15. tricotmiss says:

    Fascinating. I hope you’ll do more posts about this. I think the discussion can include many aspects of women’s dress, including dresses/skirts themselves. It’s a little off topic, but here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

    Louisa May Alcott devotes a whole chapter in “8 Cousins or the Aunt Hill” to the appropriate dressing of little girls (I think the character is 11 or 12) and contrasts the vision of one of the Aunts with the vision of the bachelor Uncle who has become the main character’s guardian. The Aunt wants Rose to dress as a winter fashion plate with corset, bound skirts, high heels, an open throat/chest, and a hat with a spotted veil tied around her face. The Uncle wants to dress Rose in a simple dress and full-body long-johns with stout boots and a good warm coat. In the end, being that Alcott tends to include lessons, Rose chooses the more child-like and winter-appropriate option & the fashionable Aunt is appalled.

    I’ve been thinking about this chapter a lot recently because I’ve found myself almost exclusively wearing skirts/dresses and tights this winter rather than trousers or jeans. A number of people have commented that I “must be cold” and “fashion is pain, right?”, but I’ve found the complete opposite – I’m warmer and can move more freely in my dresses and tights than I would in pants. Additionally, finding the proper fit and tailoring has been much easier with skirts than pants and that has been really liberating for me in my 5′, size 14/16, and very curvy body.

    Hard to belive I eschewed dresses for many years because they were “too girly”!

  16. [...] of your waist. S., who has done a lot of research on gender and fashion talked about some of the historical dimensions of this earlier in the day. While I may (very) frequently revert to a cinched-waist silhouette, but [...]

  17. daisy says:

    I guess I’m seeing belting during pregnancy as part of a relatively new pressure on women to look sexy and feminine even when pregnant (of course there’s not much more feminine than pregnancy!). Maternity clothes and articles about maternity dressing over the past few years have emphasized looking sexy for pregnant women (thank you naked pregnant Demi Moore!)–it seems every maternity top is low-cut, as if a pregnant woman would of course want to emphasize her larger-than-usual breasts. Fashion and celebrity mags certainly put a lot of pressure on women celebrities to look hot and thin as fast as possible after giving birth. (I imagine fashion bloggers might feel some similar pressure.)

    I guess I think it’d more more radical and feminist not to consider belting some kind of tool of empowerment and rejection the hourglass ideal. Rather, I’d suggest belting is a way of refusing to abandon stereotypical (and perhaps unhealthy and certainly unrealistic) norms even when pregnant.

    The dress looks cute, but I bet it’s a lot more comfy without a belt. Shouldn’t pregnant women get a little slack? Shouldn’t we at least be able to accept our bodies when pregnant, if at no other time?

    And yeah, you guys are super cute. But by putting so much emphasis on feminine accents even when pregnant, are you… a bit culpable?

    • Shaye says:

      Hang on, is it really pressure to look feminine or sexy? Or is it simply an option that didn’t exist before? I’ve never been pregnant, but I certainly remember tent-like maternity clothes from the days of yore. And yes, I’m sure they were very comfortable, but how did they make the pregnant woman feel while she was wearing them?

      There has been a tendency in this society for far too long to view mothers as some kind of third sex. Even SNL has spoofed it with their infamous Mom Jeans commercial. (“Give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman anymore…I’m a mom!’”) If a woman has – knowingly and with intent – chosen fashion as a means of self-expression, and desires to continue that self-expression throughout her pregnancy, is it really your place to judge, especially when making that choice is an intentional subversion of the way mothers and pregnant women have been treated for decades?

      • daisy says:

        I’m not judging, truly. Just offering another critical perspective.

        The phenomenon of feeling pressure to look sexy even when pregnant is a recent one, but certainly not something I observed all on my own. It’s not that women now have the choice of low-cut shirts during pregnancy. It’s that it can impossible to find a shirt that *doesn’t* reveal a ton of cleavage. So what if you *don’t* want to dress sexy? Shouldn’t that be an option as well?

        Here’s an article from the NY Times in 2006 about how it’s now fashionable to show off one’s pregnancy: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/08/fashion/thursdaystyles/08MATERNITY.html

        And here’s an article from Jezebel about body pressures during pregnancy:

        People like to joke about how pregnancy is the one time women in this culture are allowed to eat with abandon and gain weight without shame, but Mysko and Amadei’s research shows that even that’s not true. Women are subjected to constant pressure to eat and weigh as little as possible, regardless of how it may affect our self-esteem, our mental health, or our pregnancies.

        Maybe we need to let it be okay for all women–including pregnant women–not to be adorable and sexy all the time.

        • admin says:

          Daisy, I appreciate the viewpoint you’re bringing to this, and while I agree that there has been a certain degree of fetishizig of the pregnant body and the ‘baby bump’ in our culture as of late, I also think that perhaps things don’t have to fall under the dichotomy of “you can eat with abandon while pregnant” vs. “you must still look sexy and slim while pregnant”. There is something to be said for a happy medium and while those two extremes surely exist, I’m hesitant to see women as falling either into the one category or the other.

          When it’s come to dressing my changing body thus far, I’ve enjoyed keeping my pre-pregnancy style as much as possible. It feels comfortable and familiar and makes me feel like I’m still ‘me’ despite daily changes to my body. I would argue that dressing in dresses, using belts as accessories, and not just opting for sweats or comfort clothes does that for me – it allows me to feel like I’m still retaining aspects of my pre-pregnancy looks in a safe way (through clothing and not through diet). I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think I’m dressing ‘sexier’ nor am I dressing ‘frumpier’ while pregnant but just in a way that feels familiar to me.

          So while I see from where you’re coming with your discussion on pregnancy and ‘sex appeal’, I’d just like to offer a third/another way of looking at this. Does dressing ‘cute’ automatically mean that you’ve fallen victim to the media and societal pressures put on women? Or could it mean that by dressing a certin way, you’re simply enacting an extension of your usual style and approach to getting dressed, one that is shaped by your sense of aesthetic and one that you feel comfortable continuing despite/because of a change in your body?

          - S.

          • daisy says:

            S, thanks for such a thoughtful response. I love your perspective on continuing with your style despite a change in your body–claiming a pregnant body as ‘normal,’ in a way. Dressing cute doesn’t necessarily mean falling victim to societal pressures. Feeling like you still have to look adorable even when you are feeling less than adorable is problematic–but I’m not saying that’s where you are, as it sounds like you’re doing great with it all. Thanks again.

  18. Empress says:

    I certainly agree that the symbolism of the corset/hourglass figure over the course of history is too complex to be reduced to a single meaning.
    For me, as a markedly hourglass-shaped woman, belts or fitted tops have almost felt like an obligation – I must “show my shape”, lest (horrors) someone think I’m larger than I actually am. I’m actually starting to move away from them, both because an hourglass shape, while idealized, is not always an advantage for a woman who wants to be taken seriously, and because I’m gradually losing my fear of being seen as unfeminine or “big”. I do still wear them, but occasionally, as a deliberate choice, rather than as a rule.

  19. vikki says:

    i love your outfit! you are really pretty(=


  20. riley says:

    I had not made the explicit connection between corsetting the waist and belting it, but your explication certainly changes all that. Thanks for historicising your outfit — the soupçon of nerditude makes it that much more interesting!

  21. Amelia says:

    You always inspire me with your insights on these topics. As an “apple” shape, I’ve definitely noticed the belting trend because it’s very difficult for me to pull off. Thanks for bringing an intellectual and historical spin to one of my biggest wardrobe challenges!

  22. ATH says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and I think S looks terrific in that outfit! I love the way the chopped and belted dress gives her a shape, instead of just a cloud of fabric. As an academic who’s just getting comfortable with the idea of starting (to start) a family, I love seeing S and E dressing professionally and projecting a stylish and competent look while pregnant. I’ve watched the way that people watch pregnant women – especially in the academy – and been appalled at the way the pregnant body somehow either morphs into public property (available to an especially scrutinizing gaze) or else threatens to overtake its person’s intellectual/professional persona by being so insistently visible and changing. What I find particularly terrifying when I think about the possibility of this happening to me is the idea that people (particularly students) will stop seeing me as the professor and start seeing only my pregnancy. It seems like there are two options: (a) hide under a cloud of fabric and pretend not to be bodily, or (b) enjoy the options that a changing body shape gives for self-expression, particularly if one is fashion-inclined. That S and E have opted for (b) (at least on the days they post their photos!) gives me a lot of hope and a model for how I will approach this when the time comes for me. S looks like herself in the belted dress, and she looks great.

    I know this is long, but this thread has brought up another question for me. Are we using the word “bump” because by being so non-bodily it is somehow less contentious than acknowledging the physical reality of what the “bump” (as euphemism) conceals? It makes pregnancy sound like a fashion choice rather than a marvelous and strange biological process. I’m not sure I like that.

  23. Aimee says:

    I hadn’t mentally made the connection between corseting and belting, but that may be because I considered belts more of a practical consideration rather than a stylish one until recently. I love that you belted this dress, and I wish I had thought of doing that with my tent-like maternity uniform shirts.

  24. Kate says:

    Thanks for the fascinating exploration of the historical/functional parallels between corseting and belting. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it makes a lot of sense in your analysis. Also, I really appreciate the emphasis on the *choice* of belting that is emerging from the discussion here. I would love to hear more from you (and E.) about your experiences being pregnant and reactions within your departments and from students, and what impact you think your style choices have on how you are perceived. I wonder whether taking control of your appearance and accentuating ‘the bump’ and your pregnant body helps to counter some of the persistent stereotypes about pregnancy in academia (e.g., you’re not as serious about your research/career) by clearly indicating your pride in your body.

  25. [...] post on belting, corsets, and their cultural implications is a fascinating [...]

  26. [...] On belts and corsets (+ feminist undertones). [...]

  27. [...] last week’s discussion on belting and corseting also delved into matters of pregnancy and academia, I thought it might be time to revisit this topic [...]

  28. [...] feminist who contemplates whether her love of classically feminine dress makes her hypocritical. Academichic also has a great feature on waist defining belts and the relation between corseting the female [...]

  29. [...] I pulled out this newly thrifted and altered dress and added the brown accessories and called it a day. I love it when I don’t have to stare at [...]

  30. [...] a belt? Do you have theoretical concerns about belting and gender performance, like the ones S. of Academichic raised last week? Tagged with: Beltless • Belts • Boots • Colors • Dresses • Maternity [...]

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