When Kim Kardashian arrived at the 2019 “Camp: Notes on Fashion”-themed Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC on Monday, May 6, in her shape-shifting, “dripping wet” Thierry Mugler minidress, the internet immediately wondered if she had removed ribs in order to fit in the teeny tiny frock. As it turns out, the cinched waist situation was the result of a good ol’ fashion corset, and the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star shared that she had to take “breathing lessons” — yes, you read that correctly — before she could wear it.
“The day that I found out the Met Gala theme was ‘camp’, that same day we called @manfredthierrymugler 👑 the King of Camp! We met up in Miami right after the holidays last year and saw the sketches,” the KKW Beauty founder captioned an Instagram post of one of her meetups with Mugler. “I learned so much about couture from this genius man, it was beyond couture, it was art! 7 months in the making and fittings in Montreal, Paris and LA. Corset breathing lessons from none other than Mr. Pearl. It was worth it all!!!”
So who is Mr. Pearl and what do his “breathing lessons” entail? Well, the Paris-based corset maker, who was born in Brazil and moved to London before settling in the French capital, is known for his #TBT undergarments and his own 18-inch waist (the result of training himself to wear a corset day and night for decades).
He became interested in the shape wear at an early age and has designed pieces for high-fashion houses like Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and, yes, Thierry Mugler, in addition to his work with personal clients like Dita Von Teese and, now, Kim K.
While some may consider wearing the organ-crushing contraption a special kind of torture, Mr. Pearl (born Mark Pullin) told Dazed in 2016 that he views it as an “ancient ritual.”
“Speaking personally, and other people would agree, it aligns your body, firstly. It elongates the spine. It places everything in order, in a way. Your mind also has to be in order to wear it, and so this is a very positive feeling. I would say it enhances one on a daily basis in a very positive way – a positive frame of mind,” he said. “You cannot rush around. You cannot slouch. You eat moderately, you cannot drink beer, there are certain things you can’t do.”
Considering corsets have been shown to decrease lung capacity by 20 to 30 percent, wearers like Kardashian must learn how to take shallower breaths from the upper part of the lungs.
“It’s totally about discipline, yes. It’s all about that. And practice, too, on a daily basis. It’s totally ritualistic, it’s an ancient ritual. When practiced today, one feels connected to that very ancient form of body adornment,” Mr. Peal told Dazed. “Today, people believe it is only the domain of the female, but it was always practiced by males and females. It’s very ancient, it goes back to the Minoan culture, to Crete, and so that’s what fascinates me about it.”
While Mr. Pearl was clearly able to get the mom of four comfortable with the undergarment’s restricted airflow, there was one thing even he couldn’t assist with: sitting. Kardashian told Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour that she likely wouldn’t make it to her table for dinner because she could only “half sit” in the dress. Oh, the price we pay for fashion.
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