The Corset: How a Fear of Women’s Underwear Almost Derailed my Writing, by Lise MacTague

I don’t like women’s underwear. There, I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, underwear is all well and good, but I just can’t when it comes to women’s underwear. I find it intensely uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. The day I discovered men’s boxer briefs is second only to the day I discovered tampons. Boxer briefs don’t give me gitch crawl (it’s a Winnipeg term for a wedgie that your underwear gives you of its own volition). They aren’t lacy and made of weird material that’s too slides all ver the place. Best of all, they don’t make me feel like I’m wearing something uber-feminine, which simply isn’t me.

And then there’s the bra. I mean, it’s definitely necessary. Just because I have no use for my boobs, doesn’t mean mother nature didn’t decide to gift me a pair that absolutely require support. Bras are a necessary evil, and I’m very particular. I only wear sports bras with a clasp in the back. No racer backs for me. No lacy, satiny frou frou for me. And certainly no underwire for me.

So why am I oversharing my underwear preferences? It’s not for fun, that’s for sure. It’s so you, gentle reader, can understand the depths of my personal revulsion when it comes to corsets.

Corsets? Why is Lise freaking out about corsets when no one is going to make her wear one?

That’s an excellent question! No one is going to make me wear one, which is a good thing. However, I made myself confront my grand corset conundrum when I decided to write a historical fantasy (steampunk) set in the late Victorian era.

It sounded like a great idea when I started it. I got way into the world-building. Steampunk all sorts of fun, and my particular brand gets a lot of extra oomph from demon magic. So I got to figure out what kinds of demons I wanted, and how their magic worked. I got to come up with cool steampunky gadgets. I had a blast developing a couple of kickass heroines to inhabit the world.

And then I started writing.

Almost immediately, I was confronted by my corset revulsion. I tried to figure out how I could avoid writing corsets, girdles, and bustles in a Victorian-era story. Maybe I could simply avoid mentioning it? Except that made my characters undressing for the sexytimes scenes a problem, and I certainly wasn’t going to avoid the sexytimes. I researched the history of the brassiere, but that wasn’t popular enough to be in general use by everyone at that time.

I was at a loss, and my writing had slowed to a crawl, all for the most ridiculous reason: underwear. I had a long talk with my writing partner about my corset problem, and she pointed out that I was going to have to get over myself or change the time period for the story. She was absolutely right. Just because I have a problem with corsets doesn’t mean my characters would share those prejudices.

Once I figured that out, I was able to move forward again. In fact, the corset became something of a comfort to one of my characters. Briar has a human father, but her mother is a demon: a succubus, to be precise. (And Briar is always precise.) She grew up on a demonic plane of existence and had a chaotic and dangerous childhood. When she left her mother’s world for ours, she discovered discipline and order, of which the corset became a tangible symbol. It is such a powerful and character-defining trait, and one that feels absolutely right for her.

Isabella, my other main character has feelings more in line with my own for that dreaded piece of women’s apparel, but even she bows to the need to conform to her society’s mores, at least in public.

I still don’t love women’s underwear, and I still have issues with the corset, but I’ve come to appreciate that clothing can define us in all sorts of ways, and not always as simple physical coverings.

That being said, I have a new book out very soon! Demon in the Machine, featuring Briar, Isabella, corsets, and the occasional brassiere is out June 14th! Briar and Isabella must figure out what is going on with the evil that seems to be leaking from the newest horseless carriages on the market. Is it simply Briar’s imagination, or is something worse going on? And will she and Isabella completely alienate each other before they can figure out what happening?

You can preorder Demon in the Machine at Bella Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Lise MacTague writes in all areas of speculative fiction, from space operas to high fantasy to urban fantasy and everything in between. She writes for a lesbian audience and suggests that those who might be offended by such works of fiction might be better served in finding their reading materials elsewhere.

Her debut novel, Depths of Blue, was published by Bella Books in April 2015. The sequel, Heights of Green is now out. A Vortex of Crimson, the final book in the series, came out in October 2016 to round out the On Deception’s Edge trilogy.

Lise lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. When she isn’t working as a librarian or writing, she may be found on the ice (playing hockey, definitely not figure-skating). She dabbles in painting and sculpting, and hangs out with her wife and family in the evenings.

Find Lise:
Twitter (@LiseMactague)
And she geeks out with Andi Marquette on the Lez Geek Out! podcast at the Lesbian Talk Show channel.


  1. Heya Lise! Love the entry! The corset had to be invented by a male! Talk about torture! 🤬
    Have you tried TomboyX for briefs? These are amazingly comfy & they don’t give you crack flavk!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a fruit of the loom woman, myself. They have a great style with long legs, that I find very comfortable. Plus they’re super cheap and I can pick them up from the store, which is less awkward now that I have a stepson.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heh, watch out – corsets can creep up on you! I’ve been telling people for years they’d never get me into something so restrictive, but last weekend at Morecambe, after years of admiring the look on others, I finally succumbed and got myself fitted for one.
    It actually wasn’t all that uncomfortable! 😉

    Good luck with the book – it sounds great! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved your insight about writing and the nature of understanding a character. I appreciate your effort to move beyond inner boundaries in order to find the truth of your characters. I am sharing your process with my writing group as an example of the times when writing isn’t easy and the rewards on the other side makes it worth tackling the challenge. Lise, thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.