The Neo-Victorian CorsetTwo Narrative Approaches to the Constricting Garment in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith (2002) and Laura Purcell's The Corset (2018)

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 08 Nov 2022
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This article will examine how Sarah Waters and Laura Purcell use the corset as a narrative tool in Fingersmith (2002) and The Corset (2018), and how placing these texts alongside Victorian writing on the corset influences our understanding of the narratives. In Fingersmith, there are many allusions to Maud Lilly practising tight-lacing, having been laced into tight dresses to ‘give her the figure of a lady’ from a young age. When these tight laces are loosened, there is a suggestion of another Maud almost breaking out from the sartorial restriction. There are two corsets in The Corset which are of interest: first, a corset made by the narrator, Ruth, for herself that acts as a physical and emotional support system; second, one that Ruth makes for the daughter of the woman for whom she works. This latter corset is made by Ruth to ‘squeeze the evil out’ of the daughter; when Ruth is later accused of murder, she considers the corset to be the murder weapon. This article, therefore, considers how Victorian corset narratives, when placed alongside modern scholarship on the Victorian corset influences the twenty-first century reconstruction of the past and its sartorial/somatic imagery.


  • corset, tight-lacing, manifestation, repression, periodical, reconstruction, gender, embodiment, historical fiction