'The question of the corset': fashion, health and identity in late Ottoman history

Berrak Burçak
2021 British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies  
This article examines discussions on the corset in the illustrated press, text-book for girls, and medical and advice literature in the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909). The article argues that the corset functioned as a cultural benchmark establishing the terms of Ottoman Muslim female sartorial decorum in a larger medicalized public debate on modern indoor dress. Hamidian reformers responded to a set of intertwined but rather conflicting requirements placed upon Ottoman Muslim
more » ... bodies, then positioned as the central pillars in Muslim community building. Caught between consumer desires for fashion, and the health, of the Muslim population, and stalled by a traditional discourse to regulate female indoor dress, Hamidian reformers mobilized a medicalized discourse associating dress, health and patriotism. Debates over the corset insisted on authentic Ottoman Muslim femininity by drawing upon the binaries of fashion against health, foreign against Muslim, and beautification against beauty. Corset debates opened the path towards shifting female beauty and its preservation from an individually pursued private aesthetic into a scienticized public debate which represented moral virtue and patriotic duty towards the larger goal of communal and imperial wellbeing.
doi:10.1080/13530194.2021.1959297 fatcat:6ijejwlxoff35fhkdylb4jn7mq