May 31, 2022

How Victorian Women Managed To Exercise While Wearing Corsets

Historical fashion, just like its modern day counterpart, is almost always more about style than comfort. This has always been more true when it comes to women’s looks, and there’s no argument that the corset is one of the most restrictive garments of all time.

And did you know that Victorian women even wore them while exercising?

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Women in the 1800s exercised in order to get their blood flowing and, according to Signor Gp.

Voarino’s A Treatise on Calisthenic Exercises because they helped in “counteracting every tendency to deformity, and for obviating such defects of figure as are occasioned by confinement within doors, too close an application to sedentary employment, or by those constrained positions which young ladies habitually assume during their hours of study.”

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In addition to a brisk walk, he also suggested skipping, walking in zig zags, marching in place, and bending your arms and legs at certain angles as ideal ways for women to keep fit.

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It was not appropriate for women to be out of doors without proper dress, so anytime they would be out exercising they would have to be fully dressed in a long frock and a corset.

Thirty years after Voarino’s 1827 treatise, Catharine Beecher published a second volume called Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families, which also incorporated tasks for keeping children physically fit.

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The illustrations in that book also depicted women exercising in full dress (though she herself did not support the corset movement).

I suppose that means that these days, we’ve really got no excuses.

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