Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

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Fortunately no beds were harmed during the fastening of my corset…

“How about… we all wear corsets to the burlesque evening?”  This suggestion came from the same friend who recommended we allow ourselves to be chased by zombies around Mount Fitchet Castle last Hallowe’en. A corset?  Ummm… I glanced down at myself and wondered if I would last an evening without being able to breathe.

Go on… a little voice whispered at the back of my mind.  You know you want to…

“Yeah, sounds good – I’ll ask the others too…”  and the words were out of my mouth and running riot before I could stop them.  And so it was that a couple of weeks later, and after a bit of shopping on Ebay, a mob of us turned up at the Burlesque 2013 Championship in Shepherds Bush in our tightly laced corsets (well, the women did, not the men.  That would be just…uh… actually I’d pay good money to see that) wondering what on earth we’d let ourselves in for.  I already had a vague idea what Burlesque was all about but my other half – well, I think he left suitably enlightened by the end of the evening.  By the time we left, I was hoarse from cheering and shouting and I’d observed numerous ways of escaping a corset in a rush.  Looking around at the rest of the audience that night, I’d felt oddly at ease with all the vintage wearing, highly tattooed ladies and gents.  Guys wearing half Victorian half modern clothing and ladies with their hair piled high and with similar corseted figures to myself.  There was a pleasant air of ‘ooh, look what she’s wearing, isn’t that pretty,’ instead of ‘what’s that bitch fink she look like?’  It was a really superb evening and it got me wondering what had made it that way other than the excellent dance acts and outrageous outfits fluttering around on stage.  I really loved the mix of old and new fashions, the way the unusual was admired rather than sneered at.  Everything was just… accepted.   Not to mention the fact I got to wear a really pretty corset that I felt great in – it just ironed out every line in a most pleasing fashion and it was actually surprisingly comfortable to wear.  I’d been anticipating having to escape to the toilets every half hour so I could relearn how to breathe, but no such breaks were required.

It took me a while to figure out that there is a subculture, if that’s the right word, that I seem to have fallen into without realising it.  I’ve discovered the world of Steampunk.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, I think this might help:

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I love this kind of world!  I don’t own a strange pair of goggles, which seem to feature quite heavily in Steampunk, but I’m gaining ground when it comes to corsets and things with cogs on.  I bought one corset that was pretty and pink with white lace around the edges and wondered how on earth Victorian women used to manage to do themselves up of a morning…. Ah… that’s what maids were for.  Or – I eyed the bed where my other half was fast asleep- husbands!  But no, I couldn’t wake him up just so he could shove his knee in my back to do a corset up.

You Want Me To Do WHAT, Darling?  Pull Until My Arms Go Numb?!

Please Tell Me We’re Talking About Your Corset?!

After some experimenting, I discovered the easiest way to lace the corset is so you have one set of laces that do the top half up and then another set to adjust the bottom half, and therefore the laces meet in the middle of your back.  This makes things much easier rather than trying to tie laces at the top, where you need to be double jointed to reach or at the bottom, where you could spend all day trying to get the laces to behave themselves.  I’ve worn a corset to work a few times and I tell you what, it does amazing things for your posture.  You.  Do.  Not.  Slouch.  In.  A.  Corset.  But, tied correctly, you can still breathe and you end up with a really tidy waistline.  Of course, a corset alone does not class as ‘Steampunk’, but with a few tattoos, a love of all things spooky and unusual and an affinity with foggy, gas lit Victorian London, the next time I venture out for the evening I may consider a new look for myself.



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