I mean, really, can you imagine cinching your torso into a stiff hourglass that forced your bosom to swell upward and outward — making your breasts appear twice their normal size — and caused your bum to balloon unapologetically above your plump and sturdy thighs?

Of course, through no fault of your own, you may be forced to don one of these absurd contraptions at some point in your life. Imagine, for example, that you have been invited to a costume ball, held to raise money for a worthy cause, and you had planned to wear your reliable old kitty cat costume, but when you dug it out of the closet, it was all tatty and smelled funny from being put away dirty last Halloween, so now, at the last minute, you have to rent a costume — but all they have left is a stupid silk gown that comes with a whalebone corset.

You have no choice — it’s for a good cause. So you take it home, shower, moisturize and apply makeup carefully before straightening your laces, painfully aware that you are naked from your barely concealed breasts on up.

Speaking of which, since your now prodigious bosom has been hoisted aloft rather conspicuously, it would not be amiss to apply a dash of perfume between the two quivering globes, in keeping with the spirit of the thing.

More corset conundrums on the next page!Upon arriving at the ball, you feel terribly self-conscious and attempt to lose yourself in the crowd, only to find that your most vulnerable parts are also the most prominent. As you move through the revellers, your bust and behind are jostled and rubbed at every turn. You become flushed and breathless. In fact, given the tightness of your stays and difficulty in drawing breath, you begin to feel quite faint.

Suddenly an arm encircles your tiny waist. At any other time, you would have sucked in your tummy — a reflexive response for most women no matter what kind of unsavoury masher is grabbing you from behind — but with a tummy-flattening corset, this reflex is now unnecessary. Besides, the arm happens to belong to someone not unsavoury at all. In fact, it belongs to un vrai hottie who is dressed like Mr. Darcy. It’s not quite your period (Austen’s heroines wore those awful empire-waist gowns), but his breeches are exceedingly well cut, and you gratefully allow him to lead you onto the terrace.

Perhaps he’s someone new. Perhaps he’s someone you’ve long admired from afar, but who never noticed you until tonight, in your corset. It doesn’t matter. You laugh prettily at his conversation. Your eyes sparkle up at him above the rim of your champagne flute. And when he leans forward to kiss you under the moonlight, his fingers trail tenderly, but purposefully, along the length of your collarbone, and then down to the edge of your corset, across the soft roundness of your breasts as they rise to meet his touch …

Yes, the corset is a perfectly ridiculous garment, and it can surely lead to ridiculous situations like this one. Consider yourself warned.