My mother is a costume-maker, and I was a voracious reader of advanced fiction at an early age, particularly fantasy fiction. These two things meant I was introduced to the concept of corsets at a very early age (I really loved books that were ‘lists of things’, and remember reading my mother’s historical underwear books over and over).
I was fascinated by the idea. It was structure, it was a way to change myself and the body I felt so awkward in. My body felt foreign, strange, not normal, and I fixated on anything that might change it so I could feel normal. The amateur theatre that my mother worked with when I was young put on a period show, and my mother made me a costume to wear to sell programmes. It wasn’t corseted, but the bodice was tightly-fitted, and it made me feel like someone else. When I was in my early teens, my mother had a 1950s corset I was occasionally allowed to wear – I desperately wanted to wear it all the time, which is funny because I loathed wearing a bra. But corsets are simply Not Done anymore.
Of course, over time, I became aware of the modern corset and tight-lacing movement. I always intended to purchase one, but that intention came with the caveat “when I lose a little more weight”. I remember reading about deep pressure therapy (or as I think of it, compression therapy) a few years ago, and how it helped children with autism. This was long before the idea of me being autistic came about, and yet even then I was intrigued by the idea, merely the thought of it calming me down. I considered whether corsets would be able to provide the same benefits.
But of course, I never got around to actually trying a corset until recently, when I thought “Why bother waiting? This is something I’ve always wanted to try, so I might as well do it.” I ordered a mesh wasp corset from Orchard Corset (after a lot of research) and had the usual “ugh I’ve bought the wrong size” (I can never seem to get it right, even if I try something on in the store)… but as soon as I laced myself into it, I felt a deep sense of calm. I’m wearing it now for the second time, and it is the curious and wonderful mix of relaxation and discomfort at this strange new sensation. I like it. I am looking forward to wearing a corset in my daily life, and donning one more layer of armour against the world that is so often bewildering and anxiety-provoking to me.