Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beautiful Regency corset

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Loretta reports:

Some years ago I learned that, contrary to popular belief, corsets were not necessarily uncomfortable.  I'll explain some exceptions in another post.  But for now let's say that, generally speaking, given the materials used, the lacing could be tightened only to a point.  Later in the century, tougher materials, including metal, were used, which allowed extremely tight lacing, à la Scarlett O'Hara.

I'll have more to say about corsets in relation to an exhibition I visited recently.  Meanwhile, though, I wanted to share my photos of this beautiful Regency corset, created by the milliners at Colonial Williamsburg.

Historian Janea Whitacre holds up a corset that might have been worn under the red dress I showed yesterday.  I think the first photo shows that this wasn’t a torture device.  The busk, which is clearly visible, would take some getting used to, but the corset itself is soft and silky to the touch.  I suspect it would more comfortable than a bra with an underwire.

Notice the wide straps.  This is a far cry from the strapless Victoria’s Secret-type corsets which frequently adorn the covers of romances.  Furthermore, the corset is not worn against the skin, but over one’s shift or chemise.

You can see that the holes for the lacing are reinforced with thread.  No metal grommets.

You may want to compare and contrast this ca 1815 corset with 18th C stays. (Scroll down to Stays and click for pop-up.)


Katy said...

This is so neat! I've read about corsets, but now I have a much better idea of what they are! This one is kind of pretty, too. :)

News From the Holmestead said...

Beautiful garment and lovely stitchery. No slouching with that busk, either! I would imagine wearing this garment provided support and also additional warmth for the wearer on cold days.

I wonder how comfortable they were for chunky ladies? I know one queen-sized lady who had a Regency corset made for her, and she said it was quite comfortable, but that bending, even to remove a suitcase from the trunk of her car (she was attending a Regency costume conference), was impossible. And no way could she get out of it herself. She had to ask a female conference attendee to unlace her.

Still, I can see how this would be a comfortable garment. But that busk . . . it reminds me of a true story I read about a pioneer woman dragged from her house during an Apache raid and tied to a post. The Indians shot arrows at her, but they bounced off because of her sturdy corset. She was uninjured, and the Indians left her alone after that because she had "strong medicine." *g*

News From the Holmestead said...

P.S. Forgot to say how grateful I am for your attention to details with your photos. You're writers, so you know what other writers are interested in. Thus, your photos are very useful. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Vanessa Kelly said...

It is a lovely corset, Loretta - such delicate needlework. I like the emphasis in both the Georgian and Regency periods on supporting proper posture, rather than tight lacing only for fashion's sake. I think my own posture could certainly benefit from a busk!

I still laugh, though, whenever I think of how quickly we get our heroines out of their clothes.

That's a great story about the woman whose busk saved her from an Indian attack!

LorettaChase said...

I was completely taken with this corset. I'd encountered others, and marveled at their softness, but this one is so beautiful. I do know my own posture could benefit from a busk. Regarding bending over: Since both ladies & ordinary women came in all shapes & sizes, and ordinary women would do a lot of bending, I'm envisioning a couple of solutions: one bends at the hips, or crouches instead of bending over at the waist (these are methods taught to people with certain types of back problems) or one wears a slightly different style of corset. Then as now, women had choices regarding their support garments. Some corsets are shorter, some longer. I have seen corsets that lace at the front. When I've created heroines who are more or less on their own, or have to dress themselves for one reason or another, I put them into front-lacing corsets. Still, servants were more common than one might think. But if you were very poor & couldn't afford even a single servant, you'd either wear front-lacing or have your children or husband help you dress--or, you might do without. But my sense is that most women would be as horrified at doing without a corset as many would, today, at doing without a bra.

LorettaChase said...

Yikes, I really can go on and on about corsets. I guess more posts are in order. Meanwhile, though--Sherrie, I loved the busk & Indians story, and yes, Vanessa, I laugh, too. And undressing characters with the speed of light isn't the only funny thing I've done. But every new discover offers more fuel for the writing engine.

LorettaChase said...

I need more tea.

Marg said...

Such a gorgeous piece of craftmanship.

Red Corset said...

I wish there were more exhibitions near us, especially those showing off corsets like shown here. Does anyone know of show exhibitions here in the UK, or are we all off to the USA?

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