Victorian Secrets

  • by Sarah A. Chrisman
  • Narrated by Kristin Kalbli
  • 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A true story about discovering positive selfhood, from a woman who moved beyond stereotypes to explore the world of corsetry firsthand.
On Sarah A. Chrisman's 29th birthday, her husband, Gabriel, presented her with a corset. The material and the design were breathtakingly beautiful, but her mind immediately filled with unwelcome views. Although she had been in love with the Victorian era all her life, she had specifically asked her husband not to buy her a corset - ever. She'd heard how corsets affected the female body and what they represented, and she wanted none of it.
However, Chrisman agreed to try on the garment . . . and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The corset, she realized, was a tool of empowerment - not oppression. After a year of wearing a corset on a daily basis, her waist had gone from thirty-two inches to twenty-two inches, she was experiencing fewer migraines, and her posture improved. She had successfully transformed her body, her dress, and her lifestyle into that of a Victorian woman - and everyone was asking about it.
In Victorian Secrets, Chrisman explains how a garment from the past led to a change in not only the way she viewed herself, but also the ways she understood the major differences between the cultures of twenty-first-century and nineteenth-century America. The desire to delve further into the Victorian lifestyle provided Chrisman with new insight into issues of body image and how women, past and present, have seen and continue to see themselves.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Sarah A. Chrisman uses her own journey with wearing the body-shaping undergarment known as the corset to explore the lessons that Victorian styles and notions can teach modern women. Chrisman, initially hesitant to don the garment with the possible chauvinistic implications and physical burdens it carries, found it in fact to give her a certain confidence and to illuminate ideas about feminism and sexuality that were hitherto absent from her daily life. Kristen Kalbi deftly performs this account that dips into history and big ideas with a personal tenor, making it feel like her own journal.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Exploration of Vanity

I tried this book as an interesting diversion into the world of historic dress which has become a growing phenomenon. Blogs about historic clothing construction, dress-up dances, parties and conferences are on the rise these days. These discussions and events deal with the smallest details needed to recreate historic garb. This book was well written and nicely narrated.

The problem lies in the fact that the author may have exposed too much of the inner workings of her thoughts, marriage and life to the reader. The extremes the author was willing to take in order to wear antique garments, shoes and reproductions and appear beautiful was surprising. The quickness and harshness of her judgements of other people encountered day to day was painful. The idea that she "knew" what others were thinking about her and their motives became a window into a deeper issue all together. For me it was just too much raw information and vanity exposed and in the end felt embarrassing.

If you like loads of intimate personal detail, and an uncensored, often unkind stream of thoughts retold you might enjoy this listen. To me, pretty is as pretty does.
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- sara

A real disappointment

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This book sounded condescending to all humanity besides herself and her husband. The entire story Sarah Chrisman's tells is self serving and had such a negative tone about all of the world around her. She was comfortable with labeling others, name calling "Ms Polyester" and "Mr. Tomato Head" and criticizing ffreely most of the people she encountered. The reading contributed to the negative tone. I was so looking forward to something delightful and charming, positive, and liberating.


What could Sarah A. Chrisman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

She tried too hard to convince the world how much of a liberated woman she is and just enjoyed telling her story. Everyone else is portrayed as idiots. She obviously gained self confidence and a greater sense of of self, it is such a shame.


Would you be willing to try another one of Kristin Kalbli’s performances?

No I would not be willing to listen to her again. I wonder if the reading was what cast such a negative tone to the reading of the book.


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Victorian Secrets?

The migraine, so boring.


Any additional comments?

I couldn't wait for the book to end so I could write this review. I listen to so many wonderful books. This is just a great disappointment. I guess with the sales of this book she can have more custom corsets made, get a 1 bedroom apartment, and her own wi-fi.

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- darlingkit

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-03-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios