The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 1, 1907 to 1910

Two W .B. Corsets: Left, 1907; right 1910. Both are “Reduso” corsets for stout women, pictured just three years apart.

I have quite a collection of corset ads from the backs of Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal — but it’s just a sampling. Nevertheless, there seems to be a continuing message from advertisers to women, and that message is, “There is something wrong with your body.” In addition to being re-shaped, it needs to be “improved” and “confined.”

This is a selection of corset and padding advertisements from just one source, Delineator magazine.

1907: S-Bend and Padding

Ad for Set Snug Underwear, Delineator, October 1907.

Although that ad didn’t sell padding, it shows the nearly-impossible ideal figure of 1907.

This W.B. Nuform corset was designed to give the “chicness and charm of figure” of the Gibson Girl. September, 1907.

A chic figure might well require some padding, as well as distortion and an unnatural posture:

H & H Pneumatic Bust Forms were inflatable [and recommended as a flotation device.]  In a range of shapes, including “Round… Oblong, convex and concave….” July 1907.

[Note: The H & H “before” image shows a normal, youthful figure…. There is nothing “wrong” with it.]

“Are You Thin?” December 1907. Parisian Perfect Form padding for the “back” and hips. You can see it under the corset, especially in the back view.)

“When Nature Slips a Link, Art Steps In. Don’t be Ungracefully Slender a Day Longer….”

The Hip Form Health [!] Skirt will create a bulging bottom [below an unnaturally tiny waist.] November 1907. The text describes it an a petticoat.

And although these figures were presented as ideal…

American Lady Corset ad, September 1907. Delineator.

“Any woman can find a G.D. Justrite that will bring out the lines of her figure.” G.D. Corset ad, October 1907. Delineator.

… it was always possible to have too much of a good thing:

A Nemo Self-Reducing Corset ad. November 1907.

This ad for a Sahlin Perfect Form corset for slender women seemed to offer a less restrictive garment than those which depended on tight-lacing…

Ad for the Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined, October 1907.

… but on closer inspection, what it really offers the slender woman is a curved, boned bodice which produces the effect of a larger, “stylish high bust” without padding.

It’s a bust improver that improves posture as well as creating a bulging bosom by the use of curved boning.

1910 Corsets: Straightening Out Some of Those Curves

In 1910, swaybacks were out, vertical was in. Two dress illustrations from Delineator, June 1910.

Two W. B. Corsets from March 1910. A mercifully straighter spine than 1907 is combined with a full bust and tiny waist.

Another ad for an inflatable bust improver. Ad for the Nature’s Rival Air Form corset waist, March 1910.

In contrast to an artificially tiny waist, a full bust was encouraged.

Ad for National Corsets, February 1910.

The disappearance of the 1907 sway-back style left some manufacturers off balance:

American Beauty corset ad, March 1910. Apparently a transitional style.

Ad for American Lady corsets, April 1910.

If your breasts were in danger of overflowing your corset top, a “confiner” could be stitched to the corset:

Gossard “bust confiner” made to be sewn to the top of the corset, as shown here.

This J.C.C. corset from 1910 starts low on the bust, and extends far down the thighs. Notice the extension which supports the stocking garters.

These corsets are very long.

Two corsets from an ad for J.C.C. Corsets, March 1910.

Above: The corset was moving down, over the thighs, but in 1910 it still offered some bust support.

The front and back views of a Kabo Corset, March 1910. Delineator.

“The most stylish and serviceable corset made.” Kabo corset ad, March 1910.

To emphasize the change in corset shapes from 1907 to 1910:

Left, 1907 Gibson Girl shape and posture; right, a longer, more vertical corset from 1910.

NOTE: I am not writing an authoritative history of corsets, just offering images from one or two sources in the hope that serious researchers will find them helpful. All of these illustrations come from Delineator magazines.

Coming soon: Corsets continue to change from 1910 to 1914.




Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Edwardian fashions, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

14 responses to “The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 1, 1907 to 1910

  1. A wonderful reminder that we poor women have been told we are imperfect for a very long time! I have always thought the S bend corset made women look like they were just about to fall on their faces.

  2. How could they sit down in these?

    • With difficulty? Perhaps a lady “perched,” bird-like, on the edge of her chair. The corsets of 1914 were also long. Some readers will have had experience with the long corsets of 1910 – 1914. How does it work? (and how much are those illustrations exaggerated?)

  3. Yes, it’s so important to adjust your body to fit your skirt as opposed to vice versa! I just came across a fascinating article in a 1922 issue of Printer’s Ink magazine, aimed at panicky corset sellers, assuring them that going corsetless is just a fad and reminding mothers to educate their daughters on the health benefits of corsets, including supporting internal organs and strengthening back muscles.

    • Ah, yes…. I have a few quotations to share about the “need” for corsets to support those delicate organs…. And my own grandmother (born in 1875) maintained that she needed her 1917 style lace-up corset for back support. In 1950, hugging her was like embracing a warm, loving, steel barrel.

      • Had the same experience with one of my grannies, whose parents (would have been my great-grans) were from Scotland. Yet my other gran, with family from East Coast U.S., used neither corset nor girdle.

      • Considering that she’d worn such a corset for most of her life, by the time she was a granny, she actually did need it. She would have had bad back pain without it pretty quickly. The body adjusts to the corset as the corset adjusts to the body, you can’t just start wearing a steel-boned corset all day long if you have no experience with it, and equally you can’t just ditch it all of a sudden if you’ve worn one for a long time. Ask any physiotherapist – medical corsets for back problems are basically underbust versions of late Victorian S-shaped ones, minus the lace.

  4. “True lines of figure.”

    Right. Sure.

  5. How I have managed to get through life without the aid of an oblong bust form is beyond me.

    A fascinating article. Regarding dancinginquestions’ query about sitting down in one of these corsets, my experience was ‘cautiously’, and not on deep or soft chairs.

  6. Pingback: The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 3, 1912 to 1914 | witness2fashion

  7. Tygon

    Oh my, I was expecting an objective article about the changing silhouette of the late 1900s but I found you throwing shade about the ads. It may be just me, but I feel you have a bit of a grudge to the people Who wrote them 110 years ago lol

    • Hope you enjoyed it. I was surprised by the very rapid change in the “ideal” figure, and by how many ads I found in just one source. And, yes, the near impossibility of ever reaching the ” ideal” figure is still a problem for women’s self esteem….

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