NOTE: I thought this post was published on Sept. 16, 2017; I even received helpful comments and updated it — but it’s not listed as published on my dashboard — so, forgive me if you received two notifications on it. Mysterious, indeed. I added links and categories in October, 2017.
This corset is stiffened by many rows of parallel channels. A busk can be inserted in the center. Parallel rows of diagonal cording flatten the midriff, which, to me, suggests a date after the 1810s.
When I first saw this corset in a collection that was being readied for sale, I was fascinated by its beauty and its fine state of preservation. At first, I couldn’t believe it was not a reproduction.
Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I took a few quick photos and sought advice, but the collection was sold before I realized that I needed more pictures. I can’t even find detailed notes — just the letter I wrote asking for advice — so apparently I never had a chance to return to this garment, or to photograph several other intriguing corsets.
Back detail of the corset near shoulder.
I believe it was completely hand stitched with shiny brown thread. The stitching is so regular that it looks, at first, like it was done by a machine; however, I believe it is perfectly spaced back-stitching, with visible starts, stops, and knots on the inside of the corset. [Update: it is not back-stitched; Cynthia Baxter suggested that is was stitched with a running stitch, and then stitched on the opposite side with running stitches using the same holes. I have seen this technique used by shoemakers and leather workers, so it makes sense for a corset.]
Inside of the corset. An occasional thread knot implies hand stitching.
The state of the fabric, except for a few spots, was remarkable — if it is as old as I think it is (before 1840.) It could have been collected anywhere.
Channel stitching, detail of right midriff front. The busk channel is at right of photo.
Detail of front of corset. The midriff area is stitched from below the bust to just below the natural waist. I think the channels hold cording. I do wish I’d had time to photograph the inside!
The corset has a dropped shoulder in the back, tiny close-fitting bound armholes, and an extended shoulder line.
In general, the collection did not include many items of this rarity and quality. However, the collection did include a fine 18th century man’s vest, as well as this dress, from early in the 1800’s.
An early 19th century dress from the same collection as the mystery corset. The chemise under it is unrelated.
Empire dress, early 1800’s, with wool embroidery at hem in three shades of brown.
The corset worn under a dress like this created a very high bust, but a woman’s waist and hips didn’t need to be re-shaped.
Back to the mystery corset: I only took one photo of the back, with a gigantic, modern black lace obscuring the eyelets.
Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed.
Were the holes hand worked or were they metal grommets? In my ignorance, grommets would have been a red flag to me; if there were metal grommets, I would have assumed that the corset was a reproduction or had been altered to be worn in modern times. But — I would have been mistaken. This English corset from the Museum at FIT is dated 1815. It has metal grommets down the back.
I looked online for Regency Era reproduction patterns; I didn’t find any pattern for this corset. A yahoo search turns up several images of Regency Era corsets. Click here.
There’s a nice overview of early 19th century corsets at Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion. Click here.
A Regency style corset made by sidneyeileen.com has similarities to our mystery corset.
A corset (1830 to 1840) in the Los Angeles County Museum has a similar high waisted (but not Empire) silhouette.
This corded corset, with a channel for a front busk, is at the Metropolitan Museum: it is described as 1820’s. The waist is a little above the wearer’s natural waist. The front straps are spaced as far apart as possible.
Corset from the 1820’s in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.
corset met 1815 to 1825
I was going to leave it at that, but couldn’t resist trying to relate the shape of the corset to the clothing that would have been worn over it.
All the following fashion plates are from the online Casey Collection of Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Museum.
The neckline of our corset is too high for these fashions — and it does not push the breasts up this high.
Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.
Early in the 1800’s, the Empire waist was very high and the dress was often gathered in the front. The fullness moved to the back a few years later, which would call for a smoother midriff area. By 1811, the waist was moving lower:
April 1811, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblee, Casey Collection. A ball dress.
However, not every woman immediately adopted the lower waist, as this mourning evening dress from 1818 shows:
Evening dress for a woman in mourning, 1818. From British Ladies’ Magazine, December 1818. in Casey Collection.
The mourning dress and the Parisian evening dress below might have been seen at the same ball, although one has a much lower waist.
A high bust and a descending waist line, from La Belle Assemblee, January 1820.
These dresses from 1822 show a high bust with a lower, fitted waist, which is still above the natural waistline.
1822: a plate from the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, October 1822. Casey Collection. The shape of the midriff is becoming important, no longer concealed by fullness in the dress.
Bodices from La Belle Assemblee, December 1822. Casey Collection. The trend for wider shoulders and a narrow below-the-bust area is beginning. Belts accent the waist, which is still higher than nature designed.
Fashion plates from 1825 show higher necklines and lower waists, with a widening (and highly decorated) hem.
January 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames. Casey Collection.
February 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames, Casey Collection. The silhouette is wider at top and hem, emphasizing a tiny waist.
November 1825, Ladies’ Magazine. Casey Collection.
By 1829, a tiny waist, rather than a high, full bust, is the focus of fashion:
September 1829, La Belle Assemblee. Casey Collection.
April 1830, La Mode. Sleeves are enormous, the shoulder is widened and extended over the upper arm; a woman is wider everywhere — except her waist. Casey Collection.
So: where does our mystery corset belong?
High neckline, relatively natural bust, flat midriff, slightly dropped shoulders.
Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed. Notice the line of the shoulders.
I can imagine it being worn under this dress — but that’s only my guess.
Filed under 1800s-1830s, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Foundation Garments, lingerie and underwear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing
The top of page 28, Delineator, July 1926. These are Butterick patterns for women.
Bright colors were on view in the July issue of Delineator for 1926. The colors are not necessarily what we think of as summery hues, but they’re a nice reminder that the clothes we usually see in black and white photos were not colorless at all.
The colors of the left, Butterick pattern 6883, seem rather autumnal. The brilliant blue dress on the right, Butterick 6914, has a white smocking, a white collar, and a lively necktie which matches her hat. July, 1926.
Detail of Butterick 6883. The bib effect — like the bib on a man’s formal shirt front — is seen in many 1920’s dresses. The fullness at the front of the skirt is controlled with rows of ruching.
Detail of Butterick 6914. White smocking decorates the bodice and keeps the dress snug over the hips.
The necktie is not shaped like a man’s tie.
Left, Butterick 6914; right, Butterick 6906 in a very lively abstract print fabric. 1926.
The sleeves of Butterick 6906 are wide below the elbow and hang open. The tucks at the top of the skirt panels give a slim fit over the hips but allow the skirt panels to flare out. I don’t think I’ve seen this detail before.
Detail, Butterick dress 6906. The collar is not the dress material, but solid white. The print suggests flowers on a trellis.
These dresses appeared on the bottom of page 28:
Dresses featured on the bottom of page 28. (I moved the one on the left to make the image more compact.)
Butterick 6922 is shown made in lavender-blue striped fabric, cleverly turned to use the stripes horizontally in the center front, on the decorative pockets, and inside the skirt pleats.
Butterick 6916, shown in dark yellow material, is another “bib front” dress. Butterick 6922, in red, is accented with white smocking and worn with a gray and black scarf and matching hat. 1926.
Butterick 6916, in yellow, has a small pocket above the hip belt.
Butterick 6922, in red, has a gathered front skirt panel (like No. 6883 on page 28) and smocking on the bodice and skirt, like No. 6914.
Left, No. 6922; right, No. 6914. Both dresses have white smocking, but in different smocking patterns. Women who didn’t want to do this hand sewing could always substitute machine ruching, but the liveliness of a contrast color would be lost.
Six more dress patterns, in more formal styles, were illustrated in color on page 29:
Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator magazine, July 1926, pg. 29. Illustrations were probably by Marie L. Britton, who also illustrated the May issue of Delineator, and many others.
From left, Butterick 6910, in green; 6899, in blue-gray, and 6893, in gold. Top of page 29, Delineator, July 1926.
In 1926, hemlines are rising toward the knee. It might be helpful to imagine these dresses on real women, rather than the oddly lengthened torsos of fashion illustrations.
Two mature women wearing Bien Jolie corsets; both ads are from 1926. [Younger women were rejecting bust flatteners by the mid-twenties.]
Fashion illustration and photo of model, 1926. The real woman is much less elongated: she’s shorter and wider. On the right, I removed a section from the middle of the fashion illustration, just for fun. It’s not perfect — the hip flounce looks too high now — but it’s more credibly human.
Fullness in the lower sleeve — or a funnel sleeve — is a common feature on these afternoon outfits.
Butterick 6910, July 1926. Scallops were a feature on many 1920’s dresses, not always on the hem.
Left, Butterick afternoon dress 6899; right, Butterick 6893. The sheer fabric is probably Georgette chiffon.
Bottom of page 29, Delineator, July 1926.
Dress 6912, in greige/tan, has elaborate embroidery on its full, sheer sleeves, which are controlled by parallel rows of gathers (ruching) at the top.
Left, Butterick 6912, with embroidery pattern 10355; right, Butterick 6920 is very formal afternoon wear.
The lower sleeves of No. 6920 seem to be one long strip of lace, open at the sides. Pale peachy-pink or tan was often used with sheer black. Click here for a vintage dress that uses these colors.
Butterick 6952 is an ensemble of a dotted dress and sheer coat, worn open down the front for a slenderizing line.
Redingote dresses like this — open down the front and often made of sheer fabric — were popular in the 1920’s and after. Next: Colorful 1926 clothing for girls and boys.
Filed under 1920s, Corselettes, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns
An embroidered coat from Delineator, August 1926.
Today’s post doesn’t have a theme; these are just patterns I find attractive, and they are all from the 1920’s. The coat itself is probably a Butterick pattern, but I don’t have another picture of it. Fullness below the elbow was often seen in 1926 patterns.
A closer view of the coat and the embroidery transfer, Butterick 10464. It seems inspired by Chinese designs. Delineator, August 1926.
Surprise: the coat is made of taffeta! However, the braid could also be applied to a light wool.
It would be an unusual quilting motif.
I’m always attracted to twenties’ styles with a geometric quality. The yellow dress below is complex but not fussy (I’m not big on ruffles or fluttering chiffon) and the top-stitching made me think it might be a light wool fabric (but it’s silk.) The tab of material that passes through the front looks like a designer touch; I like the top-stitched self belt, and the parallel diagonal lines add interest.
The dress shown in yellow is Butterick 2682, from June of 1929.
Another surprise: This is referred to as a tennis dress! (I do hope there was a sleeveless version….) There are pleats in back, too.
I don’t like the dress on the right at all — is its “anchor panel” echoing the styles of the 1300’s? (Click here to see the 1315 tomb brass of Lady Margaret of Cobham.)
The print dress on the right illustrates Butterick pattern 2675, from 1929.
I don’t show enough patterns for children; these are both charming and comfortable. Below, the young lady on the left wears a dress decorated with triangular pockets. The collar has the same [applied?] trim. If the trim is tiny intersecting tucks, it would be a technique favored by Vionnet. (The capelet was optional.)
Left, Butterick 7017, for girls 8 to 15. Right, Butterick 7021 is decorated with embroidered (and appliqued?) flowers for girls aged 6 to 10. Delineator, August 1926.
For sophisticated ladies, a set of lingerie inspired by Vionnet would be just the thing. Personally, I’d prefer this lounging pajama set!
Suggested Christmas gifts made from Butterick patterns; Delineator, December 1928.
Butterick lounging set 2288. December, 1928.
[Calling the robe a “coolie” coat is now offensive; ku li, referring to men who did hard labor, means “bitter strength.” My school textbooks showed the final spike being driven into the Central Pacific railroad in 1869, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States, but they didn’t mention the thousands of Chinese laborers whose work made that celebration possible. Then, just thirteen years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. I’m afraid I see a pattern of events here….]
Back to more trivial patterns: Butterick claimed this set of lingerie was inspired by Vionnet. It included a step-in, underpants, and a nightgown.
This step-in with lace inserts is Butterick pattern 2348; from 1928. Step-ins usually buttoned at the crotch.
This night robe [nightgown] — flows smoothly. Butterick 2350, from 1928.
The text does not say whether the set is cut on the bias, just that it’s made of “geometrical sections”. It’s certain that any of these undies would look good under a sheer negligee.
Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, lingerie, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc