1868-1874 ca. Blue silk corset, curved to emphasize the bust.
This corset has both back lacing and metal slot-and-stud fasteners in the front to make it easier for women to dress themselves without assistance. The back lacing controlled the fit and tightness, while the front fasteners allowed a woman to pull the corset closed by herself. ‘Lazy lacing’ meant two loops of lacing extended from each side at the waist, so after the front was closed the woman could pull the back loops to tighten her corset. By its quality and appearance, this corset was probably custom-made in Paris.
In the late 1860s, the fashionable bodice fit smoothly over a curvaceous corset that emphasized the bust. Skirts flared from a high, compressed waist, so corsets were shaped to place somewhat less pressure on the hips and even though the corset was under layers of fabric, it ensured a shapely hourglass figure for the woman. Godets at the hips and bust gave a fairly roomy fit. Whalebone, cane or steel boning gives the shape and compresses the body into a fashionable silhouette. The full bust and rounded hips make the waist look small, and when fully laced this waist circumference is about 22 inches.
Though corsets were generally hidden under many layers of clothing, they were made to look beautiful as well as functional. In the second half of the 19th century, brightly colored, carefully detailed corsets became increasingly popular.
In 1871, Harper’s Bazaar noted this trend: “The demand for colored corsets increases every winter, the prejudice against them giving way gradually.” Brides wore white satin corsets but red or gray merino wool corsets with white embroidery were popular for winter warmth.
The white detailing on this corset is both decorative and functional. Hand-made lace trims the top and white stitching emphasizes the corset’s silhouette. Embroidered white teardrops are for decoration and also to reinforce the ends of the boning channels.
By the late 1860s, ready-made corsets were widely available. Fashion magazines sometimes provided instructions for making corsets, though the process was very labor intensive. By the instructions in Harper’s Bazaar on “Corset Making” in October 1869, making a corset at home was very difficult and required understanding of uniting pliable fabric and rigid whalebone in a supportive, flattering undergarment. For those able to afford it, Harper’s Bazaar advocated the purchase of a custom-made corset, as “the ordinary cheap corset has neither beauty of contour nor compactness of construction.” By the quality and appearance, this corset was probably custom-made in Paris.
1. “New York Fashions.” Harper’s Bazaar 7 Oct. 1871: 627.
2. “New York Fashions.” Harper’s Bazaar 5 Sept. 1868: 706.
via FIDM Textile Museum, LA., USA. – Blog.fidmmuseum.org1868-1874 ca. Blue Silk Corset History #Corset Click To Tweet