“If she can outshine other members of her sex in some way, this is a victory worth any amount of suffering.”

Ethel Granger’s husband was a firm believer in wasp-waisted corsets for women… none of that shapeless, flapper stuff. William Arnold Granger convinced the young Ethel to wear one, first by day and then also by night, before long transforming her waist into the Guinness Book of Records-winning tiny 13 inches she was later known for. Worth the suffering? He thought so.

Whether you agree, it makes for a fascinating story; one Vogue Italia used as inspiration for this shoot from their September issue titled The Discipline of Fashion. The piercings, the corsets, and the general strangeness of it all are directly inspired by the Grangers.

stella tenant wasp corset

Click the thumbnails for full pictures:
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011
Stella Tennant: Vogue Italia, September 2011

Photographed by Steven Meisel and starring Stella Tennant, we can only guess that the shoot is intended to raise questions and generate interest, not to inspire us to don rib-crushing corsetry.

Still, the accompanying article on Vogue Italia’s website concludes:

It would be inaccurate to see Ethel and William Granger’s story simply as the sadistic wishes of a demanding sexually perverse husband who wished to cripple his wife: they were a couple that expressed themselves and embraced a subculture…

Certainly if Vogue Italia is dedicating an editorial and cover to the Peterborough faddists it must mean that, like Leigh Bowery, the Grangers are going to “inspire” fashion designers for generations to come.

ethel grangerEthel Granger’s 13 inch waist

Most of us suffer for fashion in some way or another, but it should always be our own choice to do so. And of the Grangers being dubbed inspiring well, that depends on what exactly it is they’re inspiring. We hope suffering for fashion isn’t too high on Vogue Italia’s agenda.

View the full shoot by clicking on the thumbnails above; and you can also view the behind-the-scenes video below.

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