WWMAD: Where do a lady’s prerogatives end and her undergarments begin?

A weekly series where the queen answers thorny questions on how to behave properly in polite society each Sunday. Send your own question to whatwouldmariedo at gmail.com 



Project Runway's Louise Black sells custom cameo corsets like this one on her Etsy site, http://www.etsy.com/people/louiseblack

Dear Marie,

As a full-figured modern woman, I don’t see the point to restricting my figure. I abhor modern shaping garments (especially brassieres) and wish to dress as freely and naturally as I feel. I’ve been informed by my workplace (and my mother, incidentally) that certain garments are not optional accessories. I feel like my clothes are my prerogative and that it’s  my choice to make. What do you think?


Mademoiselle Unhooked,

I assume you see your brassieres as I saw 18th century corsets of my time: unnecessary evils. As a French princess, I had the privilege of wearing the Grand Corps, a particularly restrictive corset worn only by great princesses like myself and Mesdames, the daughters of France. It was a nuisance, it was uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to wear it. Added to all of this, I had a charming figure and hardly saw the point.

(Incidentally, Adelaide, one of the Daughters of France — and my husband’s aunt — stopped wearing her corset in support of my crusade. I didn’t know it then but she had tricked me and started wearing a cape to disguise the fact that she had shunned the grand corps. And frankly, she was very fat and old and no one was looking at her waist. She and her sisters knew that I was the one everyone was going to look at since I was still pretty and young and the new dauphine.)

My corset-shirking became the talk of the court and soon everyone was saying that my back was misshapen, and that I was sloppy and deformed. Not wearing a corset drew attention to my foreign roots and to my midsection (not yet with child) as if people needed another reason why I was not working out as a dauphine. Basically, it was a debacle.

The real issue, sadly, was that corset-wearing was not the only royal duty I neglected in my youth.  The grand corps represented self-control, something I squirmed away from as much as I could, with my parties and shopping. My youthful dissipations had no greater cause except that they were pleasing to me, and I paid dearly for those pleasures. You certainly in your modern world have more freedom to walk along with your mousse and your chocolat bouncing about, but I’d warn any lady, modern or otherwise, to be prepared for the reputation that matches their looseness.

– Marie Antoinette


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