Book Review – Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman

Victorian Secrets – What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself


This book arrived yesterday morning and I read the entire book in one day. It really was that captivating. If it says anything, my husband started it last night.  This is not a book about sex and illicit romance.  It is about understanding another era.

It is the documentation of one woman’s journey to living history in the truest sense of the words, going to the modern interpreted “lengths” of wearing a corset 24/7. And she shares every aspect including her extensive research. And this was so beneficial! As a massage therapist, (in addition to having degrees in International Studies and French) she actually knows anatomy and can share the actual physical changes that are or are not affected. She takes corset wearing from the domain of myths and scare tactics into real biological conversation.

One reviewer on Amazon nearly put me off buying the book and I am so glad I did not heed her rant. The author suffered real verbal abuse from people and I am glad that she did not cover these events with rose colored glasses. I think it reflects a great deal on society today, where interfering, judgmental people think it is within their rights to tell other people how to live. These feminazis she encountered don’t even see that their vitriolic comments are right in line with the very people they seek to condemn. They preach tolerance, but only if it agrees with their agenda.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this first-hand. I wear skirts most of the time and it is unbelievable how often I am questioned about this very harmless thing! Other rude observations have been regarding my or my friends’ families, with statements like “there’s a pill for that,” and Don’t you have a television?” Never mind that my kids with be paying their social security. Can you imagine how much it hurts the children who hear these statements showing that they are unwelcome to that person! Another example was on a long hair forum, where another member was told it was selfish of her to keep her own long hair! People have no idea how much they hurt others with their judgements, and I wish someone would come up with a corset for their mouths since there already seems to be one around their minds.

This is a very real problem in society and I am glad the author chose to document that part of her journey. Society turned away from manners and etiquette, making a deliberate decision to become “informal.” Instead of informality, society got rudeness. Instead of people voluntarily minding their manners, we now have to have hate crime legislation to control the deplorable things people now say and do to one another. Maybe more people should have heeded Miss Manners.

Chrisman has a delightfully descriptive writing style, and I envy her poetic use of language. When discussing diaphanous real silk tulle she ordered for some hats she describes its luxurious texture, saying “If Arachne had met Iris, the rainbow goddess, after Athena turned the presumptuous weaver into a spider, the resultant web might have been something like this material. Soft as a kitten’s breath, it lay upon my hands with the weight of a butterfly come to rest…” Ah, the bliss of reading an educated author!

Her husband gets a fair share of the story and he seems delightfully supportive. The two of them are united in marriage, interests, curious minds, and the pursuit of improvement. They take their role in historical recreation seriously, shunning imitations and petroleum derived fabrics. They should be imitated instead of criticized for this, as one other reviewed did.

She evidently has a strained relationship with her mother (something I can relate to) and still comes to understand her. Bravo.

I recommend this book even if you have no intention of wearing a corset. The author lived and traveled abroad and her acceptance of other opinions and cultures may have been enhanced by this foreign travel. The book may be about corsets, but its underlying theme is that of “live and let live.”

I am placing it in my Amazon store here. 





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2 Responses to “Book Review – Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman”

  1. Jennifer Doerflinger Hill
    November 21, 2013 at 7:07 PM #

    How utterly refreshing!

    • Meduseld
      December 31, 2013 at 1:25 PM #

      Yes, very. I recommend the book!

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