Whale Watching and Corsets

Whale Watching on Cape Cod
I am still on vacation. Lovely vacation in fact. Yesterday it was “off to see the whales”. Only once in my life did I see whales. Two of them to be precise way off in the distance. We needed binoculars to see them. Today we saw 60 humpback whales, rolling, breaching, jumping, mouths gaping, feeding all around us. It was a spectacular sight….unsettling at times, as they were really, I mean REALLY close to the boat we were in. And these animals are 50 feet long each. That’s 16 meters, my European friends. There is something special about these enormously intelligent mammals besides their immense size which has inspired myths and stories.

Between the wind, the sun and the rocking boat (and stomach), my mind began to wander…..If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the baleen which is what these whales use to filter their food from water. And then I realized, this was the very same material used for stiffening corsets from the 16th through the 19th century. Baleen is like human fingernails and the material could easily be shaped when steamed, and holds its form when dry.

Whale Bone Corset
© Les Arts décoratifs / Musée de la mode et du textile, Paris / Photo Laurent Sully Jaulmes
It’s a good thing that fashion no longer requires horribly restrictive corsets stiffened with whale bones or elephant or moose bones (did you know they used those, too?). It’s good for us, and good for whales!

And what does all that have to do with dancer Isadora Duncan? You’ll find out tomorrow.

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4 Responses to “Whale Watching and Corsets”

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  1. Sharon says:

    that is too funny…i can't imagine watching whales and thinking about corsets! though, i too cannot imagine wearing uncomfortable clothes anymore….i base everything i wear on what does not itch….or restrict…..or pinch….

  2. boatx2 says:

    For once, I'm actually grateful for the counter-culture love of these things! That and PLASTIC boning! ((sigh of relief))

  3. Felicity says:

    I've heard of whale boning, but didn't know which part was used. Thanks for the lesson and thank you for sharing that picture. : )

  4. Marie says:

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful info about your vacation watching whales and the beautiful post of how to make your own sandals! I truly am inspired by you to try to make myself an original pair… I'll let you know how they turn out!

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