Kardashians' waist trainer a blast from the past

A New Zealand academic says the waist trainer promoted by Kim Kardashian and her sister Khloe is a step back in time.
KIM KARDASHIAN/INSTAGRAM

A New Zealand academic says the waist trainer promoted by Kim Kardashian and her sister Khloe is a step back in time.


A new fashion accessory made famous by the Kardashians is being called a step backwards for women who fought to liberate their bodies.

English literature researcher, and a specialist in the lives of Victorian women, Dr Kirby-Jane Hallum said the new waist trainer, a type of modern-day corset touted by the Kardashian family as a way to shrink your waist, takes women back more than 100 years.

Corsets - heavily-structured garment worn by women under their dresses - confined women to a particular social space as it made them physically weaker, Hallum said.

Victorian women were forced into corsets from adolescence but fought hard at the end of the Victorian era to liberate ...

Victorian women were forced into corsets from adolescence but fought hard at the end of the Victorian era to liberate their bodies.

They could not breathe properly and it rearranged their internal organs.

"It crafted anyone's body into a particular shape that suited the style of the period."

The waist trainer was "a step backwards in terms of the liberation of women's bodies and the liberation of women being all shapes and sizes".

New Zealand women got fashion and beauty tips for newspapers and magazines during the Victorian era.
ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY

New Zealand women got fashion and beauty tips for newspapers and magazines during the Victorian era.

The hourglass figure had always been held up as a body shape to strive for but using an undergarment to force women's bodies into an unnatural shape should not be celebrated or encouraged, she said.

Hallum will be talking about what New Zealand middle-class women wore during the Victorian period for the Ponsonby Heritage Festival, in Auckland.

Her illustrated talk will look at the changing standards of female beauty and what Victorian women would have put on their bodies, from head-to-toe.

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Near the end of the 19th century women were pushing for change through the suffrage movement, Hallum said.

The modern-day corsets are touted by the Kardashians as a way to achieve the hourglass figure.
KIM KARDASHIAN/INSTAGRAM

The modern-day corsets are touted by the Kardashians as a way to achieve the hourglass figure.

They were also fighting to take control of what they wore, which meant putting an end to the corset and pushing for functional dress.

Women wanted to be able to wear trousers and clothing that was functionall for riding a bicycle or carrying out chores or errands, she said.

The New Zealand Rational Dress Association was formed in Christchurch in 1894, following a movement that began in the United Kingdom and Europe.

At that time, Kiwi women still looked to Paris and London for fashion; they were yet to form a sense of their own identity.

They would read magazines like Harper's Bazaar and read the ladies pages in papers like the Otago Witness to keep up to date with what was fashionable, Hallum said.

They would have patterns sent from London or Paris and have the garments sewn in New Zealand rather than waiting for the clothes to be shipped over.

However, New Zealand women did have to adapt their dress to the hotter, muggier climate and change their footwear to meet the demands of sometimes uneven and muddy streets.

When it came to their faces Victorian women opted for a natural look.

Hallum said Queen Victoria herself denounced make up early in her reign.

Make up was associated with actresses and prostitutes.

New Zealand women took a strong stance on avoiding make up and focussing on cleanliness due to their puritan roots, Hallum said.

Things had come full-circle when it came to women going for the natural look, she said.

However, women today spent a lot of time, money and products on trying to achieve the "natural look".

A VICTORIAN WOMEN'S BEAUTY KIT:

Chloride and chalk to create a light powder for the face.

Plucked eyebrows.

Castor oil for eyelashes and eyelids.

Beeswax for lips

Crushed flowers for perfume

Naturally occurring dyes like henna to cover grey hairs.

And lots of Pears Soap.

Clothing, Complexions and Cosmetics: Beauty in the Victorian Period is on Saturday, October 10 at 1pm at Leys Institute Library, 20 St Marys Rd, Ponsonby.

 - Stuff

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