King Minos Charmed By The Embryonic Corset
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Who is that smartly attired young lady with flying locks and jaunty cap, short-sleeved "zouave" jacket, tightly laced bodice, and flounced aproned skirt reaching to the ankles?
The flounces of the skirt—where have we seen them before? Now we recall! The effect resembles curiously that of the skirts in high fashion, according to old pictures, in the seventies and eighties. This young woman's dress of summerish fabric is gaily ornamented with patterned design.
She has dark wavy hair loosely arranged, one curly lock archly falling over the forehead in a fashion quite familiar to modern times. Her bright red lips are seemingly fresh from the lipstick. Looped at the back of her neck is a cluster of colorful ribbons. Altogether, in animation and piquancy, she suggests the term la Parisienne.
A startling thing about her, particularly for one so beribboned, fancifully jacketed, snugly girdled, and elaborately flounced, is that her rosy, buxom breasts are completely exposed. Her dress in front is cut away to a point but slightly above the waistline.
But, given an instant's reflection, has not this repeatedly been the height of Fashion? For instance, during periods in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the decolletc of fashionable ladies extended to the stomach. And little more than a century ago, under the first French Empire, were not breasts generously displayed ? Today, by an interesting reverse in Fashion, a lady in evening dress makes her prodigal display of flashing intimacy by turning her back on you.
It is plain, however, that we are not at home just now. Where are we? By the dim light of the dawn of civilization we look at our historical timepiece and perceive that it is about 2000 B.C. It behooves us to exercise some restraint in regard to the attraction exerted upon us by this swanky creature or we might get into trouble with the gendarmes of King Minos, the greatest of the sea kings, whose power extends over the islands of the Aegean and even over the mainland. We find ourselves in the midst of a proud people who rule the sea from their luxurious palaces. Who are these people, with their culture expressed (among other manifestations) by ladies of such wasplike waists?
Some term them Aegeans. Again, they are called Cretans. And again, Minoans. At any rate, the first dwellers arrived in these parts, according to the postulate of cautious learning, around the summer of 10,000 B.C. The climate is mild, they survived the winter all right, and so they stayed on for something like nine thousand years, they and their seed; until, in the neighborhood of 1100 B.C., their principal palace was burned and they got cracked up generally by Greek invaders. Where did they come from? About that there is much dispute among those disputatious in such matters; but the best bet would seem to be Africa. That snappy-looking lady upon whom we have our eye is dark-skinned, long-headed, and black-haired.
At the dawn of civilization these predecessors of the Greeks were here. By, say, the fall of 1800 B.C. they had very distinctly established themselves on an astonishingly high plane of living, having installed bathrooms with sanitary toilets in their two great palaces, cultivated to an impressive degree the arts of architecture, fresco painting, and sculpture, and the crafts of the potter, the metal worker, and the designer of jewelry.
Most pertinent to our story is the established fact that something like four thousand years ago these dashing people in their sequestered little isle achieved the invention of the pre-historic corset.
The history of the Minoan (or Aegean) period is very much mixed up. At any rate, the chief seat of this dazzling Eastern Mediterranean civilization was probably located at Knossos, in Crete; and Minos was the legendary king under whom Crete rose to the position where it cut such a figure in the world. Thus, from Minos, Minoan. As an alternative name Aegean is sometimes preferred because something of the same Cretan culture existed (without the corsets) in other islands of the Aegean. The term is therefore employed as more appropriate than the local one —Minoan.
Confusion is plentiful as to the dates properly applicable to this period, but a very fair working layout suggests circa 3000-1100 B.C.