October 13, 2011

Modern Day Corsets: Have we come a long way, baby?

Please help me welcome Elizabeth Means to the keyboard today. After you meet her, make sure to check out her new release, Dangerous Charades.

I’ve worn the same bra size since I was 19. Wish I could say the same about my underwear. But despite those lower -half fluctuations over the years my bra size remains pretty constant. Perhaps it’s because bras are more forgiving. Or maybe it’s just Murphy’s Law that up top is generally not the area where excess fat goes first.

Being a lingerie fanatic, I collected hordes of bras all through my teens and twenties, amassed them like they were going out of style. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t single-handedly play a small role in the rise of Victoria’s Secret stock price in 2005. Anyhow, as a result of my…addiction, I built a collection that would put any lingerie store to shame. With bras popping out of five drawers (yes, five, don’t judge) I’ve rarely needed to buy any new ones since that time. But now, in my mid-thirties, it’s become evident to me my rag-tag collection is in desperate need of an update.

So last week I headed to my local lingerie store. I must admit I felt an adrenaline surge the moment I stepped through the door. I was on the hunt. The familiar anticipation of the search for the sexiest, silkiest, most push-uppiest bra came rushing back to me. One that flattered, but didn’t flatten. One that could create cleavage without pulling the skin all the way from around my back to do it. One that felt so comfortable I forgot I was even wearing it…

The daydreaming continued and with a stupid grin on my face I approached the racks. Imagine my horror when the first garment I passed looked like a torture device.

To give you a little background, I’ve just completed a novel set in Victorian England where corsets abound. Rigid, unforgiving, air-restricting devices meant to slim the waist and accentuate an hourglass form. And they were pretty much a requirement for many. Numerous times while writing the book the thought crossed my mind, “I’m sure glad I wasn’t born in THAT time period. Who could wear those hideous things?”

When I saw some of the frightening undergarments hanging on the racks in the lingerie store it left me wondering if perhaps the Victorian ladies weren’t the lucky ones after all.

The first item I passed was called a “high-waisted” brief. Talk about a marketing department taking liberties with words. I guess if your waist ends directly under your boobs it would be an accurate description. This two-foot long garment was made of super-strength elastic something or another and I kid you not the size “Medium” looked like it was meant for a two-year old. I was too scared to even take it off the rack. The next thing I saw was an even more bizarre item that looked a lot like the first one except it had additional super-duper stretchy stuff extending down the legs to the top of the knees. Also the high-waist part had straps that went up over the shoulders. I guess this was so the wearer could slim their knees, thighs, hips, butt, waist, back and shoulders all at the same time. And likely end up in the ER within a few hours from a seizure caused by lack of blood flow. It did have an area cut-out for the breasts so at least those would be safe from any injury.

I moved past this garment only to find another pair of terrifyingly slimming underpants that actually had padding built into the back of them to increase the size of the wearer’s derriere! Who would’ve thought? A pair of underwear meant to slim you down all around and then puff you up again on the backside. I decided I had to try this one out for myself. In case you’re wondering, by this time I’d completely forgotten bras were my reason for going to the store. I located a size “Medium” (this one looked like it was meant for an 18” doll) and headed for the dressing room.

Once I got inside and held the slimming perky-butt underpants in my hands I felt a slight wave of panic. You see I’m horribly claustrophobic. Trying on tight garments can sometimes set me off. I actually had to use the tiny nail clippers in my purse once to cut myself out of a shirt in a dressing room to ward-off an all out panic attack. I’ve since learned to stay away from really tight things that have to go on over the head.

Anyway, I managed to squeeze one foot through a microscopic leg hole, then the other. I struggled to wrestle the stupid thing up over my thighs and broke a nail in the process. At that moment I began to suspect the stretchy material was made from something supernatural. Or maybe even developed by the department of defense. I don’t know. What I do know is I finally managed to get it on and…wow! Were my thighs skinny. And I had the tiniest little American Girl doll waist! Excitedly I put my pants back on over the underwear and turned to examine my backside in the mirror.

I almost cried when I saw the spectacular sight. That night I bought two pair. I’d have bought more but that would’ve required a small loan. I wore the one I had on home, mostly because it was easier than trying to get them off again. That’s pretty much a two-person job.

Now here I sit on my perky derriere fleshing out stories and happily bringing my characters to life. And yet still very much in need of some new bras. Can’t wait to see what my next shopping trip brings.

To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home to become an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.

Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea…until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.

EXCERPT: Dangerous Charade

Gabrielle raced across the lawn toward a side entrance most often used by the servants at Westford. Dawn was breaking and she needed to move fast. If anyone saw her, she would be hard-pressed to explain why she was returning from a ride at this time of day, in the dark. And carrying a fancy parasol, no less.

She’d almost reached the door when Julian’s voice cut through the still morning air like a knife.


“Oh!” Her free hand flew to her mouth as she whirled toward the sound of his voice. He stood close to the building, hidden in the shadows. “My lord, you nearly scared me to death! I didn’t see you there.”


“Just what are you doing out here, lurking about in the shadows?” she demanded, adrenaline pumping.

“What am I doing?” He stared at her incredulously. “Not that I owe you any explanation for my actions while on my own estate, but I came out to watch the sunrise. What the devil are you doing?”

“I was…checking on Buttercup. I’m told she’s been acting strangely.” Gabrielle took a few more steps toward the building. “But—good news—it appears she’s doing fine.”

In a flash Julian was between her and the door. He regarded her closely. “That doesn’t explain why you’re lugging a parasol around in the dark.”

Gabrielle swallowed hard. She saw his green eyes narrow. “One never knows what one might encounter lurking about in the shadows. I may have needed it to defend myself from something. Or someone,” she added pointedly.

Julian stepped closer to her; they were less than an arm’s length apart. “Do you think you need it now?” The suggestive tone in his voice was unmistakable.

Her breathing quickened, and she averted her gaze. “What I think is that you are most unnerving.”

Julian reached out and tilted her chin up with his fingers. “What kind of game are you playing, Gabrielle?”

She didn’t answer. And he didn’t ask again. Instead he brought his head down very slowly and claimed her mouth with his own.

Author Website:

Buy Link: The Wild Rose Press


Jennifer Jakes said...

Great interview, ladies!
Elizabeth, you made me laugh. I suppose the saying: What we do in the name of beauty will always ring true.

Wishing you (both) many sales with your new release!

Katherine said...

Great post. I was laughing out loud. Have to admit I'm jealous though. I wish I needed a derriere enhancer. I need the exact opposite. :o)

Lilly Gayle said...

This is so funny. But I'm like Katherine. My derriere does NOT need enhancing. My boobs do. So let me know if you EVER find a comfy push-up bra. lol!

Elizabeth Means said...

Thanks Ladies! I will continue on my quest and blog LOUDLY if I ever do find that perfect bra. I suspect I will go to my grave still in discomfort but one can dream...

Sarah Grimm said...

Elizabeth - Thank you so much for being my guest! Loved the blog post, it had me chuckling as I was setting it up the other day.

I think I've said if before, but Dangerous Charades sounds like a wonderful read. It now resides on my TBR list.