Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Happy Valentine’s Day!
Red glazed cotton corset, c. 1880. Made by Farcy & Oppenheim, Paris. Labeled inside “C. P. a la Sirene,” this was one of the finest corset-makers in the late 19th and early 20th century, showing in World’s Fairs and Expositions. The corset laces up the back and has slot and stud fasteners in front, (each stamped “C P”), allowing the wearer to put on her own corset once the proper fit was determined. Colorful corsets became fashionable and accepted in the 1880s.
This corset is currently on exhibit along with other lacy unmentionables for Valentine’s Day.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday
Stays, ca 1790 England or France, the V&A Museum
These are interesting because they’re right in the middle of the transition from rigid, mono-boobed 18th century stays to the softer ones worn in the early 19th century. Those odd tabs hanging off the back may have functioned as a miniature bustle.
Stays and busk, 1660’s England, the V&A Museum
Stays (a stiff corset) were essential garments in the fashionable woman’s wardrobe throughout the 17th century. Some sort of stiffening of a woman’s gown had been part of dress construction since the early 16th century. Sometimes it was added to the outer bodice; sometimes it was in the form of separate stays worn under the gown. Originally the stiffening served the purpose of preventing the expensive and elaborately decorated fabric of the gown from wrinkling. However, because stays could mould the female torso, they became essential for producing whatever shape was considered fashionable.
Corset, 1890-95 England, the V&A Museum
Improvements in design, equipment and materials meant that corsets could mould the figure to suit the latest fashions. The straight busk on this corset creates a vertical line from bust to abdomen which complemented the less rounded, more angular silhouette of the 1890s. It was also supposed to relieve pressure on the internal organs while supporting the stomach. Shaped pieces (five on each side) have been seamed together and bust and hip gussets inserted to give the corset its distinctive shape. Strips of whalebone follow the contours of the hourglass silhouette, creating a rigid structure to emphasise the smallness of the waist. Each strip is enclosed in a bone channel formed by neat rows of machine stitching. The decorative embroidery stitches (flossing) visible towards the bottom and back of the corset prevent the whalebone from forcing its way out of these channels. A hook is attached at the centre front to prevent the petticoat from riding up and causing extra bulk at the waist.
Corset, ca 1900 US, the Met Museum
Maternity corset, 1875-99 England or Germany, V&A Museum
Maternity corsets of this time were not meant to shape a woman’s body. Rather, they existed because a corset, worn for shaping or not, was an essential part of a woman’s underwear much like a bra is today. This example laces on the sides to accommodate an expanding belly.
(Left) Stays, ca 1760 France?
(Middle) Child’s stays, 1740’s-60’s US
(Right) Stays, 1700’s-30’s France
Children in the 17th and 18th centuries wore stays (corsets) for waist control and to ensure that their skeleton formed properly. Later on, children’s stays would function more as an undershirt and were only heavily boned if intended to correct bad posture.
Early steel-boned stays, 1770’s Italy, the Met Museum
Stays, late 1760’s France, the Met Museum