Lace Up Your Corsets…Here Come the Drunks

No job opportunities exist for Violet Spinrad in 1870—that’s about to change. (We hate change.)

Poor Violet.

I didn’t know what to do, but I needed money.

Do I look silky, or have I had too many Pink Elephant Childs?

I’d heard Silky Sue, had built a house next to her saloon.  I left 14-year-old, Mc’Allister in charge of the other 5 kids,  rode our spavined workhorse into Two Pan, and knocked at Mizz Sue’s back door.

I was shocked when a maid/cook/laundress woman named Georgette answered. She invited me in and told me Silky Sue would receive me in the parlor.

I about swallowed my tongue when she appeared in a blue high-necked morning dress trimmed with pleats, flounces, and ruching. I felt under-dressed, like a bucket woman in a sausage factory. I didn’t explain or apologize, but introduced myself and asked if she had any sewing I could do.

Shape them while they're young

She seemed to know of me, though I’ve never set eyes on the woman.  She asked if I could fix a corset so it couldn’t be tight laced.  I told her I could sew anything, even a saddle. She instructed Georgette to take me over to the saloon and collect corsets.  We went upstairs over the bar to see “the girls.”

They invited us into their room, even though they were attired in undergarments. I didn’t know where to look when talking, so I followed Georgette’s example and stared them in the face. It seems the saloon girls only wore their fancy Italian silk and velvet dresses when they worked. Those soft fabrics required a firm foundation and they had the strangest corsets I’d ever seen special ordered from Spain.

Their foundations didn’t slip over their heads like mine to be tightened by someone else (which I never wore taut). Theirs had metal busks down the front so they could be taken off and on without help…just like a shirt.

The gal named, Elyse, threw a fit when she learned I was altering the lacing.  “A girl’s ambition is to have a waist measurement not exceeding her age, and marry at 21,” she yelled, throwing one of her corsets at me.

Eat grits, Scarlett O'Hara!! I"ve got your 17 inch waist beat.

Georgette pointed a finger and told her, “Missy, that boat has sailed. If you’d stop squeezing off your air and passing out every night, you might be married to one of these toothless miners by now.”

The other saloon girl, Red, had nothing for me to sew.  She was a singer and never wore her corset tight. She was explaining how she needed to breathe big when we heard yelling and the sound of  fighting on the stairway.

Georgette pushed me against a wall, murmuring a prayer as the door flew open.  A man lurched in. Drunk. Cussing. He stumbled toward Red with a knife and stabbed her.

The two men who’d wrestled with him on the stairway scrambled into the room and knocked the drunk down. Red banged him on the head with her porcelain wash basin, shattered pieces flying over the room.

“Hades Fire!!” Red said, examining herself.  The knife had slit her silk camisole, but bounced off the whalebone stays of her overbust corset. She was fine except for the sliced undergarments. “I guess I do have some mending for you, after all, ” she told me.

(Note: True resource material.  The names have been changed to inflict humor on the innocent.  Thanks to Fifty-Four and Half, Momma’sMoneyMatters, and GeorgetteSullins for making comments in previous posts which auditioned them for the characters they played here in Two Pan.)

About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Change, Pioneer Friday in Two Pan, Satire and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Lace Up Your Corsets…Here Come the Drunks

  1. Pingback: I have been mugged. | Momma's Money Matters

  2. Hilarious. It’s fun to catch up with you again.


  3. jmgoyder says:

    I just accidentally discovered your great blog when I was looking for a picture of a woman in a corset to go with a picture of my son who has just had an op. on his spine and is wearing, you guessed it – a corset thing!
    Not sure if I’m allowed to use your pic. so will find another one but will follow your humour with interest!


  4. Alice Lynn says:

    My god, that one woman looks like she belongs in a sideshow. I’ve read that some women had their lower (floating?) ribs removed so they could have the smallest waists in town. Thank god young ladies have moved on to tattoos, which while they last almost forever, aren’t damaging to one’s innards!


  5. Pingback: Before Morning Breaks Considers Changing Buttletts | Before Morning Breaks

  6. Nisha says:

    “waist measurement not exceeding her age”, hey? I sure am looking forward to growing old now!

    Hey where are these auditions taking place? I do a great impression of an amoeba…


  7. I have a seventeen-inch waist, myself. I’ve never seen it, but I know it’s in there.


  8. Pingback: I have been mugged. « Momma's Money Matters

  9. You’ve been tagged by Simple Observations. Stop over, and see what’s happening.


  10. Margie says:

    I still have an hourglass figure… except the slender bit is my neck, not my waist…


  11. Helen says:

    At age 12, I suspect my waist may have been a seventeen. After that, it was all “down-hill” so to speak. I suspect the men loved the breath taking tight undergarments. Women couldn’t fun fast or far wearing a “git-up” like that.


  12. Red says:

    I best get to picking his pockets. I have to pay Violet and buy a new wash basin. There are only six bits in my garter purse. Silky needs to be thinking about a raise…or a bouncer.


  13. Elyse says:

    Ummmm, Barb? If I said “a girl’s ambition is to have a waist measurement not exceeding her age,” can I fit through the doorway at 55? You know, since I am no longer 54-1/2???? Better go have some chocolate because I have a ways to go!

    I have never been immortalized before, thanks Barb! Now I may have to troll your comments to see what I, Georgette and Red said that inspired you!

    Looking at the comment above mine from BJ, I’m wondering if you should have a link on the side to the first Two Pan (or better yet, a drop-down menu so we can get to them all!

    Thanks again Barb! You’re a hoot!


    • Barb says:

      Thanks for being a good sport Elyse.
      Obviously my Two Pan Pioneer Friday in the sidebar and the tool bar on top aren’t working for folks. Back to the drawing board. Thanks


  14. Ha! BJ brings up a good point, Barb: you should consider adding a warning–uh, I mean explanation–at the top of your Two Pan posts.


  15. No wonder they had ‘fainting couches’ all over the place. Those poor women couldn’t take two steps without getting winded. Where do you suppose their vital organs ended up?


  16. dan says:

    None of my under wear does any of those things, but if I whistle it jumps out of the clothes hamper.


  17. Spectra says:

    Some of those corsettes look so tight, makes me think their organs are pooched right up into their esophagus. Thats not a fat purple tongue protruding from her lips – it’s her liver. blech. Such torrential flurries in Two Pan these days.

    ALso, once again, WordPress did not load your post into my feed this morning. I betcha I see it tomorrow morning, though 😦


  18. souldipper says:

    Saved by a whalebone. Phew! Now my imagination is running wild over why that Drunk was so mad at Red. Bet he wanted her to marry him and she said “No, I’ve too much work to do on my musical career.”

    Miners get mean when they aren’t finding nuggets.


  19. Joy and bliss. I love visiting the people of Two Pan. I am sitting up a little straighter and cringing away from tight laced corsets though. Or even any corsets.
    How enterprising of Violet. It will also provide an excellent way of keeping tabs on her no account husband should he reappear. I had thought that the only respectable job open to her would have been as a mid wife. Sewing is something she can take home. And train the young uns to do as well. So perhaps she can be a midwife too.


  20. moma escriva says:

    My-oh-my, those corsets look like replicas of armor that the Spaniards wore during battle. I think my smallest waist size was 23. That was a loooong time ago.


  21. Barb says:

    I was just thinking about this yesterday, bj. I’ve picked up some new readers lately and it might be helpful to know we’re looking at change in 1870. Hope you learned more about corsets than you ever wanted to know. Thanks for stopping by.


  22. Jon says:

    I really prefer my women comfortable. They are sooo much easier to deal with. If mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!


  23. magsx2 says:

    Just looking at the corsets makes me uncomfortable, how on earth the Ladies used to wear these is beyond me.
    Scarlett O’Hara, chubby face, 17 inch waist, all I could do was laugh. 😀 You have to admit it looks odd.


  24. I used to have a tiny waist w/o benefit of a tortuous undergarment, but it’d take one of those steel jobbies to get me back into the teens again now. Who am I kidding … to get me into the twenties. But I’ll take comfort over an hourglass figure any day. Phooey on those corsets … or girdles. I yam what I yam. (And I yam a little fluffy.)


    • Barb says:

      The first time I saw Gone with the Wind, I got out a tape measure and counted my inches. I could only make 17 inches (Scarlett’s target) if I didn’t breathe.


  25. Roxie Matthews says:

    Ah, Violet Spinrad, seamstress for the band. I know a young lady who swears her corset is the most comfortable thing ever. Honest. I’ll see if I can find that link to the corseteer’s web site. I’m tempted to try one myself. Major support, you know.


    • Barb says:

      I think today’s corsets are much more comfortable…especially if they’re not tight-laced. (My reference is from looking at Corset websites, which abound.) The late 1800’s corsets had baleen, steel, and cork and were unforgiving. In a few years the S corset would be invented. This curved a woman’s posterior so it stuck out, accentuating the bustle.
      Just talking about it makes me want to put on baggy fleece pajama pants and curl into a ball.


  26. Loved this story. And, you dress. Thanks, Barb.


  27. marjulo says:

    Love it! I was smiling happily as I read it. I especially loved the tiny waisted lady (?). I just can’t imagine being that small–even as small waisted and thin as I was when I was 40 years younger–and that was without a corset!


    • Barb says:

      Makes you wonder why airline seats are getting smaller while its passengers are getting bigger? Seats have gone from 34 to 31 inches in the last few years. Perhaps airlines will begin issuing corsets.


  28. digipicsphotography says:

    Can you imagine wearing a corset today!?! I would be a crazy screaming woman if it were required attire.


  29. Came over to see your blog after you visited mine. Thanks! Your hilarity had me laughing and I really appreciate that!


  30. El Guapo says:

    That Silky Sue is going to broil in hellfire and brimstone for the shame she’s a-bringin on this christian god-fearin’ town.
    I do thank her for her donations to the town school though.


  31. Phil says:

    Adds new meaning to the term breathtaking…


  32. haha Poor bj better skiddaddle before they become unwitting auditioners for another future part. All right, all right I can’t spell skiddaddle and auditioners, apparently is not a word. What do I know? Funny post again. Now did you really put on that dress or did you paper doll it on?
    As always you leave me “wondering” but I still come back for more.


    • Barb says:

      Why Mizz Georgette, are you asking me to undress so you can see what’s underneath? I think you just auditioned for another role.
      (thanks for being a good sport)

      I clean up pretty good, huh? And so does the elephant.


  33. bj says:

    OK, my first time here and…..I’m lost. :))
    Will read a bit of the blog and see just what you have here.
    Thanks so much for coming by my place.
    xo bj


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