Thursday, December 7, 2017

The French Corset in A Duke in Shining Armor

Thursday, December 7, 2017
Phillipon, L'utile, marchande de corsets
Loretta reports:

Some time ago, Susan sent me the image you see, of a French corset seller with her wares, as an inspiration for the Dressmakers series I was working on. It looked perfect to me: not only the elegant 1830s corsets but the seller: her hair, her facial expression—that flirtatious glance. I kept it in view, especially when I was writing Leonie’s story, Vixen in Velvet, because she was the corset artiste of the trio.

However, I never wrote about the corset itself. At that time, I was focused on the seller, because my dressmakers were businesswomen.

But its moment came, in a flash of inspiration, when I was working on A Duke in Shining Armor, and had to get my heroine, Olympia, out of her wet clothes and into a fresh set of garments, right down to the underwear.

So far as I had been able to ascertain, ladies’ stays were white, as were all of their undergarments. The examples I’ve seen tend not to be especially sexy—except in the sense of being underwear in the 1800s and therefore sexy to the gentlemen—and not colorful. Maybe a little lace or embroidery would adorn, say, one’s chemise and petticoats, and pretty stitching, as in this example from the V&A online collection.

The undergarments I’d seen had all belonged to respectable women, though, including queens and aristocrats. Ordinary women were more likely to wear their clothes until they were not worth preserving.

Corset ca 1825-35
But what about the not-so-respectable women? What about the courtesans and others who had busy love lives? Expected to dress more dashingly and daringly, they might want to purchase less subdued styles, in colors or at least with colorful trim. This image told me that the Paris corset sellers were well able to oblige them.

As to why Olympia ends up in French underwear, or why she’s wet in the first place—it’s all in the book.

While the above image appears in several places, including my Pinterest board for A Duke in Shining Armor, I recommend you click on this link to the FIT blog and scroll down. You can enlarge it to an enormous size!

Images: L’utile, marchande de Corsets, Charles Phillipon 1830, courtesy Les Musêes de la ville de Paris

White corset, ca 1825-35 courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum online collections.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


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