Terrible Truth Revealed! Exoskeleton Tells All

Last Christmas my in-laws gave me a dress-form – one of those wire exoskeleton ones that you can shape to your own figure; or rather, have your dearly beloved shape to your figure, as it’s rather hard to achieve from inside the contraption.

crinoline dress form

Once I had been released, and the two halves appropriately wired together, we put it on the stand and took a look. Frankly, I was shocked. All right, I still had a waist, but when did my hips get so big? And my stomach? A look at the back of the form revealed the terrible truth: I was heading toward lordosis.

Not, as the name might suggest, a disease of delusive grandeur, but rather excessive inward curvature of the lower back. Basically, the tummy muscles go, and everything sags forward: stomach, spine, the lot. The opposite of this is kyphosis, where the upper back curves out too much and you get a hump.

Lordosis was all the rage in the Edwardian era – if you didn’t have it naturally, your corset would see to the ‘correction’ of your figure.

Coronet Corset Co

It is worth remembering, however, that this was over a hundred years ago and times have changed. Not only is a pigeon-breast considered unattractive on anything that doesn’t have wings, we also realize that having your lower back sag forward is Bad For You. (And so is being moulded by a corset. These days women are expected to turn their muscles into built-in shapewear.)

But what exactly is good posture?

According to the actress Shelley Long, “head up and shoulders back. Not only does it make you look taller and thinner but it gives you confidence and boosts your self-esteem.”

Presumably this applies to people of all shapes, sizes and genders. (Tall people: please stop slumping; this demographic is already taken.)

Very well then; head up (check!), shoulders back (check!), chest, er, up… and abdomen up and in. (Up where? Where I used to keep my chest?) Lower back flattened (but not flat), hips tilted back (as opposed to sagging forward), knees straight and feet parallel. That’s for standing. Sitting is another whole assortment of body parts.


But how does one achieve all this, without life becoming a ceaseless juggling of anatomical alignments? There’s always the old-fashioned finishing-school task of walking about the house with books balanced on one’s head (I’d advise against the Shorter Oxford unless you feel your neck is too long); or you can ask a helpful friend for the occasional reminder.

Sylvia of Hollywood demonstrates benefit of whacking on poor posture

There are some simpler ways, though. One my mother taught me: grab hold of the hair at the crown of your head and pull firmly upward. It’s amazing how your spine will extend itself to relieve the pressure. And once your body knows the position, it’s easier to slide back into it.

But alas, if the problem is soft and saggy stomach muscles, there’s only one thing for it: exercise them until they’re tough enough to do their job.

Because bad posture isn’t just a bad habit, it’s a sign of problems down the road: back pain, neck pain, sagging here, slumping there… So heed your exoskeleton’s warning and change your posture before the problems come home to roost – or the pigeon breast comes back in.

duct tape form back

NB: If you want your own exoskeleton, there’s a useful tutorial here. Bring duct tape.

Making Cuts

I’ve been posting a lot lately about purging, decluttering, getting rid of things, seeking the essentials and hacking back everything else.

I don’t want to be one of those irritating people who give everyone else good advice but never follow it themselves; and I think what I’ve been trying to do with all these posts is to shift the balance of my thinking. It is not easy, as I’m sure you know. Mental habits are ruts that are hard to break out of.

Rutted field near Ravarnet - geograph.org.uk - 1144990

The good is often the enemy of the best, I wrote. This is a lovely aphoristic saying, full of insight and meaning. But it isn’t anything more unless you apply it, put it into practice.

There are a number of elements I consider as essential to my life: the love of God, my husband, family and friends. Writing, reading, and handwork. Those are my core activities and priorities. Then there are the necessary ancillary activities like cleaning, eating etc.

There are a lot of other things I would like to do – often, being all excited about a new shiny idea, I start doing them straight away – which there isn’t room for in my life, not without filching time from the more important activities.

Where this really lands me in trouble is with the sunk cost fallacy – having enthusiastically launched into a project or activity, I feel I can’t call it quits, because that would be wasting the resources I have put into it.

Does anyone else know the dragging guilt and wearying heaviness induced by too many unfinished projects? Are you in over your head too?

Raise your hand if you can't swim

Here’s the truth I have to face: if it wasn’t a good idea to start giving your time to something, it isn’t a good idea to keep giving your time to it.

The sensible thing – nay, the wise thing to do is to admit that there isn’t room in your life for this right now, and let it go.

That being the case, I am regretfully withdrawing from the Historical Sew Monthly. I made a shift and a balaclava, both of which are useful, and I am pleased that I did.

I also made half of an Edwardian maid’s apron – my first attempt at pleating – which I may use as a half apron, or finish with bib, straps etc in the fullness of time, either with the frou-frou Edwardian bib, or with a fuller, more practical one.

Spot the Jabberwocky!
Spot the Jabberwocky!

But as much as I enjoy historical sewing (or at least, the results thereof), it isn’t a high enough priority in my life for me to be devoting as much time to it as the HSM’15 requires. So, I shall take my final bow (that’s me in the back row) and retire to the audience where I can sit and applaud the efforts of others.

I do feel disappointed, I admit. But the disappointment is tinged with relief, knowing this was the right decision to make, and nervousness, knowing that this is very likely only the first of many such decisions.