Some of you have been waiting a long time for these to be put online! Well, here they are; a handmade deck of corset themed playing cards. Reproductions now available for sale! See the bottom of the post for details on purchasing a deck.
A set of playing cards is the ultimate way for me to work in series and still keep my work functional. In case you all didn’t know, I love work that is function or made with a purpose in mind.
This piece is about the body. The corset invokes the female body even when no body fills the garment. These playing cards talk about a woman’s quest for beauty and the ways that we modify our bodies in order to achieve a higher standard of perfection.
Corsets were originally used to hold the breast in place, not to reduce the waist line. The first corsets were boxy breast plates that pushed the breast in and up and made the torso look very square. Obviously, the garment developed into a curvier contraption of steel and brocade which was was used to restrict the waists of women for centuries. A tiny waist and a larger hip and bust-line, as well as the shallow breath that corsetry caused, was seen as extremely charming during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Todays corsets are built to be safer and contort the body in less extreme ways. There are still many tight-lacers out there who choose to restrict their waists down to 16 inches, but most corsets worn today are more for show than for body modification.
Corsets are a very feminine fashion. The corset is feminine in all of its forms, no matter how bizarre. And some modern corsets are truly bizarre. In these playing cards, I censored nothing. I tried to equally represent every ‘genre,’ as I call it, of corsetry.
The spades are historical corsets and those making reference to history. Their shapes range from early, boxy, bustiers, to dramatically proportioned torture devices. I even included a corset made for a pregnant woman. As outrageous as that sounds, women did wear specially designed corsets during pregnancy. But those maternity corsets were probably not meant to restrict the waist, but rather give back support to the expecting mother. You see, women back in the day who wore corsets everyday, would suffer from severe atrophy of the abdominal and back muscles. This condition actually made it near impossible for women to stand up without a corset on. So imagine if a women has been wearing a corset every day since she was five-years old, her body would not be strong enough to carry the weight of a baby without the help of a corset.
Corsets are not all about scary side effects. They have some real medical benefits. Today, corsets are used to treat scoliosis, hernias, and aid in weight loss. Corsets also make the wearer temporarily stronger by increasing internal pressure in the abdomen, just like a weight belt! However, it is not recommended that extended strenuous activity be attempted in a corset because of the reduction in lung capacity. It is easy to faint in a corset if one were to over do it.
The diamonds represent the modern corsets. Those used for medical purposes, and mostly those used for fashion. Fashion corsets are cheap alternatives to corsets made for waist reduction. Fashion corsets to not generally reduce the waist, and if they do, it is not by more than an inch. They are meant to be worn out, with jeans or over a dress. These are not undergarments like the corsets of old. These corsets are modern fashion statements which require no training or research to wear safely.
The pin up, vintage, and lingerie corsets represented by the hearts do require some training and research to wear safely. But the amount of training depends on how much the wearer wants to reduce her (or his) waist. Waist reduction corsets today are vastly safer than those of the past, but acclimating the body to these corsets is necessary before attempting to tight-lace or wear the corset for an extended period of time. Frequent short term use, and gradual tightening is the best way to train the body and break the corset in. Waist reduction corsets are made of sturdy fabrics like silk, and brocade, and have steel bones on the inside which make it possible to reduce the waist evenly and without puckers and dangerous rolls. Waist reduction corsets are popular in burlesque, pin up and vintage fashions, as lingerie, or as a costume piece.
The last suite, the clubs represent alternative corsetry. This includes corsets made from alternative materials like leather, pcv, and latex. Corsets in this group are generally erotic, exotic, or down-right weird. One corset is made from only a steel cage. No fabric involved. It can be done. Because leather, pvc, and latex stretch over time, they are not suitable materials to reduce the waistline with unless they are used only as a finishing element on the surface of the corset, and the meat and bones are made out of steel and sturdier fabrics. But they still look hot regardless. Have fun trying to figure out how people get into these sort of corsets.
This would be a good place to mention that all of these cards were designed from memory. I did not look directly at any photographic reference in order to create these corsets, but instead, drew from my memory and prior knowledge of corsetry. I certainly did have to do a little bit of research into the uses and construction of early and odd corsets, but again, there was no photos used in the final execution of the piece.
If you would like to own a reproduction of this playing card deck, please see my etzy listing for the item or email me. Decks are printed overseas and on demand, so manufacturing and delivery may take several weeks. I thank you for your patience.