Tag Archives: corsetry

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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“The Tightest-Lacing Customers in London:” 1893

 

cdeath-tightlacing-actress-death-by

IMPORTANT OMISSION

An exchange says a Chicago girl has just died of tight lacing—it does not say whether of corset or shoes. Wilmington Messenger.

Evening Post [Charleston, SC] 9 November 1904: p. 4

Recently a crusade has been started in England against tight lacing, led by the Gentlewoman, one of the most valuable of English journals for women. A representative was sent to interview the most prominent stay-makers. One of these is thus reported:

“I am reputed,” she said, “to have the tightest-lacing customers in London; and I think that some of the waists my stays encircle would be hard to beat. I think that some of my customers positively like the sensations produced by tight lacing, or they would never take all the pains they do to get thin, such as dieting and sleeping in corsets, as some of them do.”

“Sleeping in corsets!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, yes; a good many, especially young ladies, do; an opera stay or riding one is a favorite make for the purpose. Let me think. Yes. The largest pair of corsets I have made had a waist measurement of thirty-five inches. The smallest — well, you won’t believe me, perhaps, but twelve and one-half inches was the size. No, I don’t think she’ll be able to get them closed. Every inch under fifteen, with most ladies, means a tremendous lot of lacing in. I’ve known a young lady break five or six silk laces, as strong ones as are made, in getting a pair of new stays close.”

“How small is your pretty assistant’s waist?” I asked.

“Generally about fourteen to fourteen and one-half inches. I find it best for all my assistants to have trim figures; but she has tight-laced to that extent entirely of her own free will. Many of my customers lace to seventeen, sixteen, and even fifteen inches. I suppose you haven’t seen a smaller waist than Miss Blank’s?”

“No.”

“Would you like to?”

“Yes,” I replied, “if such a thing is practicable.”

Mrs. Smith rang. In a few minutes the young lady appeared, and Mrs. Smith and she went into the alcove. Another assistant was summoned, and then a whispered consultation took place. After a minute or two, we heard Mrs. Smith ask: “Can you bear it?” and the answer, “Quite, madam.” Mrs. Smith’s voice again: “There, Miss Jones, I think the laces are close; tie them tightly.” Two or three minutes later Mrs. Smith and Miss Jones came out from the alcove, the latter incased in a long-waisted, black satin corset, which made her waist look scarcely larger than her throat. It seemed incredible that any girl — for she was little more — could breathe and move, let alone move about, without much apparent discomfort, when tight-laced to such an extent.

“Now I suppose,” said Mrs. Smith, smiling at my look of astonishment,” that you will now believe what I told you before — namely, that a well-cut corset and strong arms will make a woman’s waist almost any size she may wish. See!” she exclaimed, taking up a measuring tape off a chair, “Miss Jones’s waist is just thirteen — thirteen and one-quarter inches.”

“How long could you bear being laced up like that?” I asked.

Miss Jones smiled. “Not very long — it is rather painful — half an hour; perhaps an hour.”

Mrs. Smith said, just as we were leaving: “You know, I think tight lacing becomes a positive mania with some women. There are two of my customers, for instance — theatrical people — who usually wear their waists about nineteen inches. Well, when at home they both lace themselves as tightly as their maids can do it.” Another states that at some schools the girls are not only encouraged, but forced to lace. Five different women said that they made corsets for girls of sixteen and under with waist measurements of fifteen inches, and all agreed that girls are put into corsets much earlier than formerly.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 30 January 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil suggests that the reporter, who perhaps fell short of a “positive mania,” was still titillated by the subject. Debate over tight-lacing began in the Elizabethan period and goes on even unto the present day. Mrs Daffodil has seen articles about how sleeping in corsets is supposed to promote a slender figure. “Waist-training,” is the term used—as if one’s waist was a sporting dog to be taught to “heel” and “fetch.” The anti-tight-lacers, who were often seen as cranks and, worse, dress reformers, warned of tragic outcomes such as this one:

An actress in a London theatre has just died of tight lacing. The victim of this reprehensible custom had just finished a song and danced off the wings, when she collapsed, calling on her husband in agonized tones to unlace her gown. Before a doctor could reach her dressing room she was dead. Every vital function had been paralyzed by the lacing, and a weakness of the heart was aggravated by the exertion of her performance. It can, however, be said of the generality of woman on the stage that “tight lacing” is obsolete with them. Waists of whatever fashion fit the figure better than they did in years gone by, and there is a generous roominess of bust measure which admits of healthful expansion of the lungs every time the breath is drawn. No lesson will be learned by the fate of this London actress. She represents a bad style of corset, and some natural disarrangement which might have proved fatal had she run for the train or skipped upstairs in a hurry.

Boston [MA] Herald 17 January 1895: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Bathing Corset: 1887-1897

 

 BATH CORSETS

New York, Aug. 21. Seashore millinery art has so far advanced that not only do bathing dresses cost as much as many a woman’s whole outfit, but special water-proof corsets are made and sold at such prices that it would take a sewing girl’s week’s wages to buy a single pair. The old loose flannel bathing dress was so awkward and hideous that no one thought of wearing of a corset with it. It was beyond beautifying. With the coming of pretty and neat bathing dresses that fitted the figure like a tailor made jacket, women began to see the need of something to make their waists and busts as shapely in the water as on shore. Modern bathing does not consist so much of actual contact with and immersion in the water as posing and fascinating on the sands. To do this well the figure must be trim and not floppy or bulgy….

It is hard to say what proportion of women wear corsets in the water—as they don’t tell, and the men who work around the bath-houses and the beaches are not exact guessers on such subjects. The average varies from Long Branch and Newport where more than half the fashionable female bathers wear some form or other of corset to preserve the figure, to Asbury Park and Coney Island, where a corset is hardly known in the water. At Asbury Park the excellent James Bradley, who runs the place, might even add one to his numerous rules posted along the beach that “ladies who are ladies will use no adventitious aids to beauty when in the water, such being in accord neither with decorum nor piety.” [Mr Bradley named his resort for the first Methodist bishop ordained in the United States and the resort was run on Temperance lines.]

It would seem as if the coming bathing corset would be made to rubber-covered wire. The next thing to form improvers for the bath will be to wear waterproof wigs and pads. A waterproof complexion has already been invented.

Kansas City [MO] Times 1 September 1887: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There was much debate about how to create a sea-water-proof corset: the usual steels and eyelets were quick to rust and silk and wool stretched with exposure to water and sun. Cork offered one solution:

Bathing corsets to keep fleshy figures from wobbling in the undress of a flannel suit have cork busks and buckled straps instead of steels to rust in salt water and are comfortable for other wear. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 19 June 1889: p. 4

Rubber offered another:

Very simple, but hygienic, are the lines of a bathing corset made of rubber sheeting. This material is not stiff but sheds water like a duck, and proved itself a comfort last season to many a plump mermaid who “did not feel comfortable without a corset.”… Oregonian [Portland, OR] 18 June 1916: p. 6

Of course, there were unexpected pros and cons to the wearing of bathing corsets at all, as we read in this anecdote.

As the story begins, two slender young women, one blonde, one brunette, have gone to a corset-maker to purchase corsets and have received some good advice from the young man at the shop:

“Now about the bathing corset,” reminded the straight-up-and-down girl. “I am the queerest looking duck in the water you ever saw. You see, we can’t fill out with fluffs and frills there, for bathing suits aren’t built that way. When I get on a bathing suit I look about three inches through.”
“I, too,” said the blonde, and the two looked at each other sympathetically.

“Now, here is the bathing corset for figures such as yours,” said the man, taking one from the case. “You see it is very, very short over the hips. In fact, it almost ends at the waist on the sides, which shows off what hip there is to the very best advantage. The bust is quite high, and has a good-sized spring in it, giving a beautiful full figure. There is nothing about the corset that water can rust.”

“But I don’t swim,” said the straight-up-and-down girl in a horrified tone, “and therefore it would be impossible for me to wear that corset in the water. It is grand for those bony, slim ladies who can swim—perfectly grand.”

“What has swimming or not swimming to do with wearing a corset which will give you a lovely figure?” asked the puzzled manufacturer.

The Brunette’s eyes began to twinkle and the dimples came and went about her mouth.

“Well, you see,” explained the complainant, with some hesitation, “when a lady can’t swim one of her gentlemen friends stays around to take care of her, and she simply could not let him when she had on one of those corsets with false hips and bust. Why, imagine her feelings when he picked her up to throw her on a breaker.”

“Imagine his,” ejaculated the blonde, with great feeling. “Hers would be mild compared to his. No, indeed, I’d advise a girl who does not swim to beware of that corset as she would of the plague. Now, as for me, I can swim like a killie fish, and I’m going to be measured for one right now.

“I half wish I had learned to swim,” mused the other. “A corset like that must make a lady look stunning. I was taking lessons, but a girl who is a fine swimmer advised me not to learn, for she said you could have ten times more fun in the water than if you could swim.

Cleveland [OH] Leader 26 July 1897: p. 5 

A shockingly candid point of view about what goes on at the sea-side. Youth now-a-days…

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Week-end Compendium: 23 January 2016

"The Snow Queen"

“The Snow Queen”

Mrs Daffodil  hopes that all of you are warm and safe from the impending snow-storms, or, if house-bound, have sufficient bread, milk, and brandy laid on.

This week’s links for Mrs Daffodil:

Sixteen-button Bouffants: A Chat with the Fashion Gazette Editor: 1888, in which an innocent young girl is given some quixotic fashion advice by a well-meaning male editor.

The Flapper and Her Corset: 1921 offers dire warnings to all flappers who wish to leave off their under-pinnings. An early example of “fat-shaming.”

The sad story of Old Lisbeth and her ghostly visit to a former master who had treated her kindly.

See Mrs Daffodil on Sunday for how to make a sandstorm on stage.

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog we find the following:

“Uncanny Meteors:” Spook Lights in New Zealand, in which a naturalist relates his very close encounter with apparently sentient glowing orbs.

The Ghost of Mary Seneff, who haunted the site of her watery grave, after she was hacked to death and thrown into a local creek.

From the Archives: Enough Rope: The Hangman’s Rope in the Press, a light-hearted look at specifications for hangmen’s ropes and the superstitions surrounding them.

Favourite posts of the week: Cellphones and the Paranormal. And The Awful Greatness of the Cherry Sisters.

A "Snowflake" costume by "Zig," c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

A “Snowflake” costume by “Zig,” c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

The Autobiography of a Corset: 1883

The Autobiography of a Corset.

Chapter I.

The history of my birth and the first days of my life possess but little interest. At an early age I was carried off from my birthplace with several of my companions and placed in a large store on a street which I soon learned was called Broadway. While my fellows remained packed away in boxes, I, on account of my superior beauty, I suppose, was hung up in full view of the public. At first I felt proud of the honor and made much over myself, but I soon perceived that my fancied elevation was in fact the greatest obstacle to my success in life, for while my companions rapidly followed one another out into the world, to fulfill their destiny, I remained solitary and unsought for. It was not because I was not admired. When any one asked for a corset, I was invariably taken down, my beauty and sterling qualities lauded and everything done to tickle my vanity, but somehow or other when I pleased, which was generally the case, I was always hung up again, and one of my companions handed out in my stead. It was useless to protest against this gross injustice, and, moreover, I soon learned my true nature—I was a sample. My lofty position cut me off from all companionship with my fellows, and very soon I heartily wished that I, too, had remained humbly packed away in a box—a warning, let me tell you, to those people who fancy that elevated rank always brings happiness.

Gradually I became morose and melancholy and I know not what dark crime I might have committed had I not been timely rescued.

One bleak December morning—ah, how well I remember it!—while I was brooding over my present miseries and looking forward gloomily to the future, the door opened and there entered, gentle reader, the most entrancing vision of petite black-eyed female loveliness I had ever seen, and I assure you I had seen many pretty women. I fell in love with her at first sight, if a corset may be properly said to fall in love, and awaited with breathless interest to hear what she would ask for.

A corset! O joy of joys! And number 16! My number! Oh my ribs keep still!

I was at once handed down, and O the joy, the complete ecstasy of being fondled by those soft white fingers! It was but for a moment, alas! For although I pleased her, I was as usual put up again by the heartless clerk, who went to seek out one of my companions. I was in the darkest despair when he returned and told the lady that he had no more of that number.

“Great heavens! Haven’t you got me?” I tried to shout, but, being mouthless, failed.

Imagine the thrill of delight which vibrated through every part of me when the sweet creature said she would like to have me if the clerk would part with his sample.

The wretch softened, wrapped me up, and in another moment I reposed on the breast of my loved one, and we were whirling up Fifth avenue.

We soon arrived at a handsome brown-stone mansion and, still clasped in her arms, we ascended to the prettiest little boudoir imaginable. Shall I confess that I blushed when I saw the preparations for my embrace?

Yes, gentle reader, I blushed—I, a dignified, modest corset, blushed. My modesty was soon to be even more sorely tried, for she took me up and—O, gentle reader, may such a moment of ecstasy one day fall to your lot—clasped me tightly around her waist.

Terrified and trembling, I first made a faint show of resistance, but she pulled me only the closer, and, to prevent my escape, tied me. Yielding at last, I gave myself up entirely to the delights of my situation, and clasping her in a long, close embrace, swooned away with joy.

Yes, gentle reader, I swooned, and when I returned to consciousness and found all things changed, I was in a brilliantly lighted ball room, sweet music was floating through the air, and—yes—some villain was waltzing with my lady and had his arm around her waist.

How I longed to spurn the wretch from me and from that waist which had been placed under my protection. I had the inside track on him, however, and I longed to tell him so too. My indignation had reached a high pitch, and I was panting for revenge when the waltz ended, and my lady and her companion went to the conservatory.

They took seats in a secluded spot, but what they said shall never be known to the world through me. A corset is nothing if not honorable. In a few minutes his arm stole around her waist, and the pressure soon became so great that I thought I would surely expire. I could do nothing to defend myself, but I had one consolation, which was, as I said before, that he could not cut me out.

Lest I become tiresome, I will only say that my unmarried life, or rather the unmarried life of my lady, was to him a crystal streamlet of bliss, but alas, flowing, as I was soon to discover, into the dark pool of misery! One day I heard that my lady was to be married.

At the time I was glad, for I will confess that I was beginning to become surfeited with my delights and longed for novelty. What that novelty was to be, I soon discovered. Ah, that I had remained forever in solitary misery at my old store home, or perished before that fatal wedding day!

Chapter II.

What! Is this really myself—the happy, petted corset who experienced the joys recorded in the above chapter? How is it that I am away up here in the garret, amidst old rags and papers—my ribs broken, all soiled and covered with dust, my life fast ebbing away? Why am I thus pitched aside and forsaken?

My lady has now been wedded nearly a year.

I have grown too small for her!

P.S. Since writing the above, I have been consoled by a visit from one of my companions who had fallen to the lot of a dude. The relation of the horrors he went through will give me strength to bear up during the few remaining days of my life.

P.P.S. Horrors! I have fallen into a terrible place, and am being torn limb from limb. Surely, this must be the end of all things—the paper millennium.

Truth [New York, NY] 20 May 1883: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Who would have thought that an inanimate object was such a maelstrom of emotions?  One blushes for the almost erotic frankness of the garment’s recollections! One might almost call the narrative “50 Shades of Stay.” From the 1850s onward whimsical “autobiographies” of the normally insentient were a popular literary genre. One finds autobiographies of hackney coaches, cats, pigs, rubber bands, oranges, sheep, shin-plasters, race horses, flies, dolls, bureaus, &c, &c, &c  Mrs Daffodil has previously printed a “Reminiscence of an old Needlebook” and the “Diary of a Young Dog,” in a similar vein.

The sad fate of the once-beloved corset was common to many house-hold articles: sold to the “old-clothes man” and sent to the rag factory to be pulped for paper. As a corset was often made of sturdy linen and cotton, found in the best papers, it might expect to be resurrected as wedding invitations.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Coroner and the Corset: 1874

 corset

How to Put on a Corset. [From a report on a murder inquest.]

At this juncture the Coroner desired to show the jury the course taken by the ball, and for this purpose produced the corset worn by Mrs. Burkhart at the time of the tragedy. “You see,” said he, and here he drew the corset around his waist with the laces in front! “the ball must have gone in here from behind. No, that can’t be, either, for the doctor says the ball went in in front. Confound it, I’ve got it on wrong. Ah! This way.” (Here the Coroner put the corset on upside down.) “Now, you see,” pointing to the hole in the garment, which rested directly over his hip, “the ball must have gone in here. No, that can’t be it either, or—“

Here Mr. Mather, the handsomest man on the jury, broke in, “Dr. Stillman,” said he, “you’ve got that corset on wrong.”

Here Dr. Stillman blushed like a peony.

“Well,” said he. “I’ve been married twice, and I ought to know how to rig a corset.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Mather, “but you don’t. You had it right in the first place. The strings go in front and the ladies clasp them together at the back. Don’t I know? I think I ought to; I’ve been married. If you doubt it, look here (pointing to the fullness at the top). How do you suppose that’s going to be filled up unless you put it on as I suggest?”

“That,” said Dr. Stillman; “why, that goes over the hips.”

“No it don’t,” said Mr. Mather; “that fullness goes somewhere else—this way;” and here Mr. Mather indicated where he thought the fullness ought to go.

At tis the pale-faced young man with a voice like a robin and a note-book under his arm, said he thought the ladies always clasped their corsets on the side. The pale-faced young man said this very innocently, as if he wished to convey the impression that he knew nothing whatever of the matter. The jury laughed the pale-faced young man to scorn, and one of them intimated that he thought the young man was not half so green about women’s dress as he tried to appear. The young man was a reporter, and it is therefore exceedingly probable that his knowledge was fully as limited as was apparent from his suggestion, the juryman to the contrary notwithstanding.

Here another juryman discovered that Dr. Stillman had the corset on bottom side up. “Doctor,” said he, “put it on the other way.”

Then the Dr. put it on in reverse order, with the laces in front. This brought the bullet holes directly over the tails of his coat.

“I don’t think,” said Mr. Mather, “that the bullet went in there, Doctor.”

“No, I don’t think it did,” was the reply. “Confound it, it’s mighty funny—six married men in this room and not one that knows how to put on a woman’s corset.”

Here the Chronicle  reporter, who had several sisters and always keeps his eyes open, advanced and convinced Dr. Stillman and Mr. Mather, after much argument, that the laces of the corsage go behind, and that the garment is clasped in front. After this explanation the course of the bullet was readily traced; and found to bear out the explanation afforded by one or two physicians. Jamestown [NY] Journal 8 May 1874: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The victim was Mrs Harriet “Hattie” Burkhart or Burkhardt, shot by Jacob Wilkerson in 1872. Mrs Daffodil has been unable to find  an explanation of the motive for the shooting. The papers of the period are full of stories of ladies, unlike the unfortunate Mrs Burkhart, whose lives were saved by their corsets. For example:

A LIFE-PRESERVING CORSET

How Kate Rafferty’s Stays Caused a Bullet to Glance

New York, April 7. Kate Rafferty, a domestic, employed by William Burns at No. 328 East Thirty-third Street, probably owes her life to her corset. She was sitting at a back window on the first floor yesterday afternoon, when she was startled by the report of a pistol. There was a crash of glass and she felt a sharp pain in her back. She screamed, and the son of her employer went to her aid. He found her bleeding from a bullet wound just beneath the left shoulder blade. Examination showed that the bullet had struck a steel in her corset, and had glanced aside, inflicting only a slight flesh wound. The police believe the shot to have been fired by some careless boy. St. Louis [MO] Republic 8 April 1896: p. 1

and

A CORSET STEEL SAVED THIS WOMAN FROM DEATH

Franklin, Pa., Oct. 13. Mrs. Elia Zone of Woodcock owes her life to her corset steel. She was on her way to Meadville and passed a man carrying a rifle. After he had gone some distance the man attempted to load his gun, with the result that a cartridge was accidentally discharged. The ball struck Mrs. Zone in the side; she gave a scream and the man ran toward her. An examination disclosed the fact that the bullet had been deflected by the steel in her corset. But for that she would undoubtedly have received a fatal wound. Boston [MA] Journal 14 October 1900: p. 2

On the other hand…

SAWING HIS WAY TO LIBERTY

Girl Who Gave Prisoner the Corset Steel Informed the Jailer

Vineland, N.J. Dec. 25 “Al” Stevenson, a colored ex-convict, arrested on Saturday on the charge of stealing a wagon-load of farming tools, came near escaping from the Vineland jail. He borrowed a corset steel from Gertrude Wright, in the adjoining steel cage, and was sawing his way to liberty when, at the midnight round of the jailor, Miss Wright informed on him. Stevenson was placed in the dungeon and the informer was given her liberty. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 26 December 1899: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

dandies

European dandies are adopting women’s wear. Corsets are a case in point. There have been little paragraphs in the London paper every now and then for the last few months touching upon the increasing demand for men’s corsets. During a trial in Paris between the partners of a corset firm the defense revealed that one of the branches of their manufacture were men’s corsets. The judge having demanded an explanation it was shown that more than 18,000 corsets were made yearly for Frenchmen and 3,000 were shipped to England, principally for army officers. German officers also created quite a demand till a rival Berlin firm offered a cheaper article.

Any Bond Street dealer will tell you, without the slightest hesitation, that he employs dozens of workwomen to embroider dainty garments for his male clients. One shop never sends out a garment without embroidering initials and feather stitching on it, and another devotes its energy to decorating the legs of man’s socks with silk initials and other needlework.

The illustration [above] for this article is by F.G. Long, the American cartoonist, in London. The corset on the chair, the nightie on the wall, the stock, the embroidery, and the make-up appliances are all drawn in exact detail. Lincoln County Leader [Toledo, OR] 30 January 1903: p. 3

man corset

MEN WHO WEAR CORSETS

VERY PRETTY ONES, TOO, AND THEY COST $10 OR MORE

How to Tell When a Man Has One On.

Is a Man More Proud of his Shape Than Woman?

It is Difficult to Find Where the Expensive Shapers Are Made.

There is in one of the corset manufactories of New York a little blonde haired woman who has for many years made a specialty of men’s corsets, and has established an extensive business in a western city. She had a man trained to take the measures and fit the corsets, and frequently she or her forewoman never saw the customers for whom they made corsets regularly. It is a very paying business, for men rarely question the price of an article they wish to purchase, and men’s corsets are always made to order and never kept in stock. A woman the shape of a tub and a woman the shape of a broomstick will buy the same make of corsets in different sizes, and somehow fit herself into them; but if a man wants a corset at all he wants it to fit, and the cheapest ones made to order cost $10.

They do not differ materially from a woman’s corset in construction, being made of the same material, only with heavier bones and stronger steels. They differ very materially in shape, however, being shorter and nearly straight up and down, though the constant wearing of the corsets conduces to add fullness of chest, which compensates for the pretty bust curve and slope to a woman’s waist. They are usually made of gray sateen or coutil, but occasionally a very fastidious customer is found who orders the daintiest of materials and decorations.

REGULAR BEAUTIES

One of the lady’s customers always wore satin corsets of a delicate color, flossed, and laced with silk. He was very stout, and broke a great many of the silk laces, which a woman will wear almost a year without breaking. One of his latest orders is a Nile green satin corset flossed and laced with cardinal silk and trimmed at the top and bottom with fine white lace, for which he paid $25 with no demur.

Another customer was so extremely modest that he never went into the store, but his wife took his measure and ordered the corsets, fitting them on herself when they were finished. It requires three visits to insure a perfect fitting corset—one for the measure, which is taken very carefully; one for the fitting, when only half the bones are in and the steels basted in place, and one for the final examination, when everything is finished. After one perfectly fitting corset has been made, however, only one fitting is required.

Corsets are worn mostly by actors, the fit of whose garments furnishes at present a large proportion of their stock in trade. Then there are clerks who sit bending over desks all day and half the night, to whom corsets are frequently recommended by their physicians as a help toward straightening their curved spines, men who from some injury or physical imperfections are obliged to wear them, and a fair percentage of dudes who rejoice in a small waist and a smoothly fitting coat. An ambitious cutter in one of the swell establishments, where a suit of clothes may be purchased for the price of a brown stone block, has an idea of winning an heiress for his wife at some popular summer resort where he spends his vacations, and accordingly arrays himself in all the elegance the establishment affords, hooks himself into a double boned corset, and lays siege to the hearts of the fair ones. Before he adopted the corset he buckled a broad belt of heavy leather about his body at the waist, but as he grew stout this expedient lost its efficacy.

A man’s corsets are as readily detected by his fellow men as the faintest touch of rouge on a woman’s face is always discovered by her sister woman. Gentlemen says that a man in corsets goes upstairs like a woman and walks differently, and that if you observe him closely for a few minutes he will give a  little peculiar hitch to his shoulder , as if he were endeavoring to pull himself up out of the corsets. It was by watching Berry Wall mount a flight of stairs that it was fully determined that he was laced into a snugly fitting corset. His wife accompanied him and they made the same motions in the ascent. Both the King Dude and his roly poly little chum wore corsets regularly on important occasions. It was at Mme. Griswald’s on Broadway that the pink haired dude returned a pair of baby blue satin corsets trimmed with lace, after they had been fitted three times, to have them made a half an inch smaller, and his anxious perplexity was very amusing to the mischievous merry maiden who fitted them on.

THE PRINCE WEARS THEM

It is no secret that Osmond Tearle wore corsets, and that Kyrle Bellew wears them still. The noble Antony has them made in London in a little shop in Conduit Street. They are not trimmed with pink lace or embellished with embroidery, which is the only surprising thing about them, but they are deliciously small and very short, not more than six or eight inches up and down.

In the same shop the Duke of Beaufort has the pink satin, lace edged corsets, which he makes no secret of wearing, manufactured and embroidered with his monogram surmounted by a ducal coronet. He is an old, decrepit man, with a wrinkled yellow face and a fringe of white whiskers, and so bent over with age that the line of his corsets is plainly discernible through his dress coat. It is said that the Prince of Wales affects them too, and that that is why he has abandoned horseback riding. Corsets are worn quite extensively by men in Paris, and all the handsome officers in the German army wear corsets under their uniforms.

Thought corsets are worn by men in New York, it is extremely difficult to find out where they are made. There is no special manufactory for them, and though most of the first class corset places receive orders for them occasionally, they are very reticent on the subject, for any publicity given to the fact would destroy the business altogether. There is one bright woman corset maker on Fourteenth Street who advertises to make a specialty of men’s corsets and receives a great many orders, which she fills simply by taking women’s corsets of large size and removing the gores in the bust and taking out some of the fullness at the hips. Merchant tailors would hail with delight the general use of corsets, as they would render the fitting of garments much easier, and enable them to keep smooth and in shape much longer.

It is the stout men who take to them most kindly and who suffer most in wearing them, and it is hinted that two of the handsomest “dress coat actors” in New York resort to their use on the stage. Watch the man who never leans back comfortably in his chair, whose coat does not pull in lines at every button or gradually work up toward his shoulders, and whose chest is unusually round and full, and if he seems at intervals to be pulling himself up out of his garments by the shoulders and goes upstairs with an inflexible back, you may safely infer that he is laced into a pair of $10 stays, though he wouldn’t admit it any sooner than a woman would own her shoes were too tight. Wichita [KS] Eagle 15 August 1889: p. 7

 Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Men wearing ladies’ clothing is an old and cherished tradition in Britain, both on the stage and in aristocratic circles. In fact, the best-dressed lady Mrs Daffodil has ever known was a footman to a ducal house. His delicate colouring, drenched-violet eyes, and exquisite wardrobe made him popular with gentlemen in need of a feminine escort when it was really not in their nature.  He was taken up in a raid on an establishment in Cleveland Street, but thanks to his intimate connections with some of the noblest families in England, he was allowed to emigrate and became a fashionable designer of lady’s underclothing under the name Sissi et Cie.  On the other hand, Mrs Daffodil dislikes intensely the rigidly corseted Hun officers with their revolting dueling scars, monocles, and fund of smoking room stories about the Rape of Belgium. Mrs Daffodil feels they do protest too much.

Mrs. Desmond Humphreys, the London novelist and keen satirist, who wrote under the name of “Rita,” has nothing good to say about gentlemen in corsets: “What of the effete boudoir boys who give smoking parties to each other in order to display the latest thing in satin corsets and lace-frilled tea coats?” adding that such fads “might make the angels weep.” She blames the sensation-mad Americans.

The “King Dude” was E. Berry Wall, a rich New York socialite and clotheshorse. Wall was proclaimed “King of the Dudes” in 1888 by a New York newspaper. He was known to make ludicrously large numbers of costume changes in a single day. He dressed his chow dogs in evening attire made by his own tailor. His followers were shocked to their core when he was married in a cutaway coat and brown trousers, sans gardenia.

George Osmond Tearle and Kyrle Bellew were both English actors: Tearle was primarily a leading man; Bellew was a stage and silent screen actor with a sensational profile. The Duke of Beaufort [1824-1899], was a soldier and Conservative politician. He served as Master of the Horse and was the creator and editor of the Badminton Library of sporting books.  

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.