Internet Time is radically different from the passing of hours and days that you and I experience. It's accelerated: everything online moves more rapidly; trends emerge and dissipate in days; popular sites are rapidly superseded by others that do the same job more simply, more effectively or just more attractively. Today's post-bubble Internet is business and leisure at warp speed. To many it's difficult to feel any sort of permanence online - the landscape changes at such a rate.
However, there's a site that has become an authority on its singular subject matter and has done so for as long as many of its audience have had computers connected to the Net. In 1996, when Netscape and Internet Explorer battled over the virtual hearts and minds of surfers with version 3 of their browsers, when Napster and Google were just glints in their creators' eyes, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, LISA was there.
Today it celebrates its tenth birthday.
Thomas Lierse, founder and sole organiser behind The Long Island Staylace Association (or just LISA to you and me) was kind enough to give me an interview and discuss some of the aims behind the site, the day to day challenges of running it and how it has both responded to and shaped corset culture for the last decade.
When questioned about the site's origins, Lierse explains, "Back around 1990 I began conducting lectures on the subject [of corsetry], as I had done many years of research and my interest (and delight!) in corsetted women was deep. My wife (who modeled and on whom I demonstrated) and I would go to various places nationwide and speak to libraries, groups, conventions, and other gatherings.
"In 1996, I was doing a lecture for a Boston leather fetish group, and the president suggested that I start a website. Since I had a lot of information to share (even then, I had a huge
movie list, for instance), I did just that."
The group president was kind (and foresighted) enough to allow the use of her server, but something happened that neither of them had predicted. "[It] was soon overwhelmed with extraordinary bandwidth usage," Lierse says. The combination of an online kinky underground desperate for corset-related information and the near-daily updates provided by a nascent Staylace.com served to push the capabilities of the host past its limit. Soon Lierse had to find a new home for his baby.Community Spirit
These early experiences made it apparent that not only was there an untapped corset community who wanted to download pictures, stories and anything else they could get their hands on, but that they also wanted to share
. Lierse was swamped with contributions from all around the globe. "People quickly began to share – hence my large amount of update material, and corsetieres began to view LISA as a forum to both expose their creations, as well as popularize the subject."
The collaboration of Lierse's own writings with the contributions of the general public made LISA's rise rapid, both in terms of sheer size and popularity. "The amount of information now on LISA is tremendous, and growing daily."
And the aims of the site? "Merely to expose and popularize, as well as to educate and advise," he says. Indeed, the educational aspect of the site cannot be overemphasised. Lierse mentions that early on in the site's history, "A corset-wearing physician asked if she could dispense advice on the site; she felt there were few sympathetic physicians available to give corset wearers advice." For an activity that often draws undue criticism from an uneducated media and certain outspoken members of the medical profession this was a great counterpoint. These educational and advocative roles are central to the site's philosophy. "Since then," Lierse remarks, "it's all been good."The Secret of Success
When grilled about the sheer popularity of the site (a massive ten million visits a month), Lierse jokingly points to the fact that it can't be the aesthetics that draw his readership. "I tend to concentrate on content rather than form," he quips. Indeed, although the layout of the site hasn't changed significantly in years, the quantity of content has increased markedly. The amount of categories LISA now sports is comprehensive; the broad coverage ranges from corset-related fiction (from mild to explicit, and ranked accordingly), to news on real life gatherings of period dress fanatics, and the popular Corset Kitten pages for aspiring and established corset models from all walks of life.
The popularity of the site may also be related to the changing role of the corset over the last decade. The garment never seems to be far out of the gaze of fashion designers, film costumers or celebrity trend-setters. From Versace's wasp-waisted runway models to the common sight of a bride in a corseted gown on her wedding day to its use as a fetish mainstay, the corset has experienced a significant resurgence in recent years. It has gone from something necessarily hidden to clubbing outerwear. Form and function have combined to create a sexually charged statement that shows no sign of dissipating any time soon.
Lierse puts it succinctly: "There is an increasing view that the corset is empowering, rather than a symbol of male authority. Ten years ago, the trend was just starting in the fashion world."Taking it to Extremes
If the corset has 'cracked' the mainstream, what of the future? "Tightlacing is another matter," Lierse explains. "It is certainly not mainstream, but I see more and more folk indulging." LISA gives these tightlacers a forum and exposure, but what is the reaction from further afield, from more traditional media outlets? It's not so positive, concentrating on the shock value rather than the stories behind the people wearing their figure-enhancing stays. However, the site keenly presents both sides of the accounts. "There is still a great deal of ignorance out there on the subject," Lierse says, but with his site's aim to educate as well as entertain, he is doing his best to inform readers of all sides of the debate.The Man Behind Staylace.com
And what of Thomas B. Lierse himself? One thing his site is short on is biographical information about the founder and sole proprietor. The sixty year-old Lierse was born in Austria - Salzburg to be precise - but moved to the States when he was young, becoming a US citizen when he was six. "I spoke German before I knew English," he says, before joking that fluency in his native tongue is very much a thing of the past.
Still in his teens, Lierse moved to New York City, after which he started a career in the US Navy. He became of all things a submarine nuclear reactor operator - "I just love
this country!" he says.
Currently Lierse works in local government and is looking forward to retirement next year. So will the site close, giving him time to put his feet up and enjoy his well-earned rest? Hardly. "I'll have lots of time to devote to my passion," he says, putting the future success of Staylace.com (and its 'daughter' site Petticoat Pond, which he also runs) in no doubt.The Celebrity Question
With the subject of my own site being celebrities in corsets and other kinky outfits, I was honour-bound to ask Lierse who his favourites were and what images stuck in his mind from his years of posting so many fine examples. He was glad to answer.
His most loved celebrity is Audrey Hepburn ("she had a naturally small waist," he adds). He is also an admirer of Marilyn Monroe, especially her role in River of No Return
. The fantasic publicity shots of the corset-clad bombshell, reproduced here, must have had a role to play no doubt.
Favourite single images include the stunning shot of East of Eden
star Jane Seymour in a corset and petticoats ("She is perfect here," he says when mentioning the picture), and also the work of the exceptional artist Linda Bergkvist (http://www.furiae.com). Lierse reserves a special mention for a 'non-celebrity' - a Corset Kitten called Blue - "[an] all time favourite of mine."Ten Years On
With ten years of near-daily updates behind him, Thomas Lierse is looking forward to the future; to a retirement giving him more time for the hobby he loves and to an online and offline relationship with a public that would be lost without the site and the singular vision behind it.KG http://kinkygerlinky.blogspot.com
: From left to right: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Seymour, the work of Linda Bergkvist and the stunning 'Blue'Many thanks to Thomas Lierse for generously donating his time to participate in this interview.