Bind or Breathe: the Great Corset Debate

Corset advertisement, 1888.

Bind or Breathe: The Great Corset Debate surveys the evolution of corsets and binding from their beginnings through to the early 20th century. It also examines the role of the corset in fashion and culture along with the 19th-century debate surrounding its use. This talk was presented at the Textile Museum of Canada, on February 22, 2012.

Dawna Pym received her degree in Fashion from Ryerson University and studied art history at the University of Toronto. She taught for 20 years in the Education Programs department at the Royal Ontario Museum, specializing in costume history as well as teaching at the International Academy of Design & Technology for 13 years.  She also taught fashion history at The Chang School at Ryerson University and Seneca College. Pym created and presented a variety of programs/lectures for the ROM’s programs department and wrote an EduKit School Case titled “World Garments” for Outreach & Traveling Exhibits. Dawna is also a member of the executive of the Costume Society of Ontario.

The Textile Museum of Canada began as a single exhibition in Toronto’s Mirvish Village, founded by textile enthusiasts Max Allen and Simon Waegemaekers.  In 1989, the museum moved to its present home, located at 55 Centre Avenue in downtown Toronto.  For more information on current exhibitions or contact information, please visit the Textile Museum of Canada.

Use it in the classroom

Suggested bibliography

  • Corsets: a modern guide, by Velda Lauder (London: A.C. & Black, 2010)
  • The corset: a cultural history, by Valerie Steele (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001)
  • Bound to please: a history of the Victorian corset, by Leigh Summers (Oxford, New York: Berg 2001)