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Corsets shouldn’t crush actresses’ organs, costume designer says

To bind or not to bind?

With a spate of historical dramas like “The Favourite,” “Mary Queen of Scots” and “The Alienist” coming out last year, it seems like more actresses than ever are lacing themselves into rib-crushing corsets. But according to Alexandra Byrne, the Oscar-winning costume designer for “Mary Queen of Scots,” if your bodice is restricting your breath, you’re doing it wrong.

“I’ve been asked a lot about corsets and discomfort and I would say number one, a bespoke corset — a corset which is made for you — there is no reason in the world why that corset should not be comfortable,” Byrne told Page Six Style.

In fact, the costume designer said that a good corset should feel no different from wearing an underwire bra. “Everybody thinks of the caricatures of people with the foot in the small of your back heaving you in and constricting your body. And yes, they do change your shape, but there are parts of us where it’s comfortable to feel supported in that way,” she explained. “You know, some of us choose to wear bras, some of us don’t choose to wear bras. I don’t think it’s any more constraining than that if the corset fits you.”

In a well-fitting one, Byrne continued, the wearer should be able to complete any number of activities with relative ease. “Saoirse [Ronan], for example, was [horseback] riding in a corset and that means she’s got to have a lot of movement and flexibility. She was riding in a corset and armor, that again can be made in a way that it is supple to the body. I think it’s a very easy soundbite to say, ‘my corset was agony,’ and people sort of want to hear that.”

Both Emma Stone and Dakota Fanning recently complained about the confining piece of period garb, with Fanning claiming it “completely changed her body” and caused her to faint, while Stone noted that it literally shifted her internal organs.

And Byrne understands that, of course, not every actress can commission a custom corset. “For the entire film, if you’ve got a whole court full of women, you can’t make every corset,” she admitted, “so you wind up using some stock corsets and they’re maybe not going to be so comfortable. But a bespoke corset really should be comfortable. There is something marvelous in feeling that sense of relief when you’re let out of it at the end of the day, but that’s not to say that you’re in excruciating agony when you’re wearing it.”

That said, a garment that cinches your waist will never feel like sweats. “Of course, if you have a big catering lunch and then you go back into your corset you’re kind of going, ‘ooh, God.’ But my aim is not to make people uncomfortable. It’s about creating a silhouette and working with the actor to create the right shape for the film.”
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