Note: This book is not associated with the Corsets On Parade website.
For almost four hundred years the corset was an essential items of women’s clothing. Unlike the foundation garments, or shapers of today, the corset was a restrictive garment that limited movement and endangered women’s health if they were worn too tightly, which they often were. Tight-lacing of corsets could permanently damage a woman’s internal organs and significantly impair breathing.
Although various forms of corsets existed prior to the 1500s, it was during the reign of Marie DeMedici that it was decreed that no one in her court could have a waist size greater than thirteen inches. From that time on, the popularity of corsets grew until the time of World War I. During the 1700s, it was common belief that no unmarried girl’s waist measurement should exceed her age and many young women found themselves living in corsets day and night to satisfy this social requirement.
In 1867 the first factory was opened in America to mass produce corsets. Up until then corsets had been made as piece work by hand. By the late 1800s, the popularity of the Gibson Girl image (Barbie of her day) and the Kodak Girl with her picture perfect figure made the corset a popular consumer item. In many ways the corset was the first item in history to be target marketed to a specific group by mass advertising.
During the early Twentieth Century corsets underwent frequent design changes to accommodate new fashions. Rather than one standard corset being produced by a manufacturer, they were now making many different syles with names like “Dowager,” “Good Luck” and “Sprite.”
Early corset advertising was basic. Because of limits on what could be printed, most ads looked pretty much the same. By the 1880s they had advanced line drawings, by 1890 pictures of women wearing a corset began to appear. At the turn of the century, the ads became more graphic and they stressed glamour and image. This held until the popularity of the corset declined during the 1920s.
One has to respect the corset manufacturers for always trying to open new markets. During the late 19th Century they actively advertised corsets for young girls and boys. In the early 20th Century, American Lady Corsets Company, developed a product line for men.
The decline of the corset can be attributed to several things, first of all women’s suffrage questioned the need for them. Secondly, even though it had been stated for years, it was finally acknowledged that corsets and tight-lacing to get a thin waist could be hazardous to health. (In the early 1900s one child in five died before the age of five. It was believed that many of these deaths were caused by women who wore corsets that were to tight during pregnancy.) Finally, World War I brought many women into the factory work where the corset was a liability to production.
Corsets On Parade illustrates the development and decline of the corset from 1840 through 1925 by reproducing advertisements from the era. Also included is a pictorial history from early times through 1890. Corsets On Parade in book form includes about 300 high quality reproductions of advertisements for corsets and related items. Also included are many color pictures to illustrate the dress of the time. Corsets On Parade in compact disc format includes over 1200 advertisements and images on a disc in slide show format that is readable on most computers. It is also searchable by year and product name. Being a compact disc, it is easier to carry than the book and it contains much more information.
For a free excerpt of Corsets on Parade by email, contact firstname.lastname@example.org