Statistic of Waist measurements Waist measurements Waist measurements: Values/Overview
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Data from paper patterns advertisements and dress stands (1886)

David Kunzle: ''Fashion and Fetishism''

The principal German fashion magazine, Der Bazar, gave paper patterns for corsets in sizes ranging from 50 to 60 cm (19 1/2 to 23 1/2 inches), with 54 (21 1/4) and 56 (22) the commonest dimensions. In 1884 there appeared patterns for drill and satin corsets with waists of 46 (18); thick laces are recommended. By the mid-90's, however, the average minimum measurement had increased from 21 to 23 inches. Mass-produced corsets were available from size 48 (19) upwards; German women seldom bought smaller sizes, although Russians frequently demanded sizes 42-46 (16 1/2-18).

In France, mass-produced corsets were generally available from size 46 (18) (A la Ménagère corsets at 44 were exceptional). In the U.S., Warner's sold ''great quantities'' in sizes 18, 19 and 20 (Always Starting Things, published by Warner's in 1954). Sears Roebuck sold from their mail-order catalogues sizes starting at 18 inches. Paper patterns in La Mode Illustrée tended to have larger waist sizes in children's corsets (between 20 1/2 and 23 1/2) than in adult corsets (19 to 23); in 1884 a pattern was offered for a deluxe corset in satin, with a 46cm (18) waist. Continental dress stands advertised during the early 90s started at 19 inches; a proper bust-waist differential was 15 inches (in 1960 it was 10 inches). English dress stands started at 20 inches. Worth human models supposedly possessed waists varying between 18 and 21 inches (Flinn, p. 19)

The increase in tight-lacing encouraged advertisers in the 80s and 90s in England to emphasise unbreakability and pliability as much as hygiene and comfort. At the same time, the tendency of busks to break was cited (in 1890) ''as approaching calamitous proportions.'' Steel increasingly replaced whalebone, as the whale was hunted almost to extinction, and other, non-rusting, pliable, and unbreakable substitutes were sought. Platinum was claimed to be so flexible that it could be tied in knots. The French invented a corset made from the hair of the Russian boar which was ''absolutely unbreakable.''

Izod's were the first firm to direct conspicuous illustrated display advertisements specifically towards tight-lacers. They also used ''action-vignettes'' showing the wearer picking fruit, dancing, playing tennis, etc. In 1879, they announced their ''patent steam-moulded corsets,'' designed according to Hogarth's Line of Beauty, which ''fit so accurately and comfortably that a very small size can be worn without the slightest injury to the figure'' (Judy's Album). Other advertisements recommended the corsets as ''suitable for all ladies, whether votaries of tight-lacing or not.'' Oddly, sizes are not given, but a Family Doctor reader wrote to say (22 December 1882) that she was wearing Izod Sylphs of 14 and 15 inches. Dermathistic was, after Izod's, the second most prominent brand catering to tight-lacers. One model by Dermathistic was described (by Seeker) as containing forty leather-covered bones placed so close around a waist so small that they actually touched, forming a solid belt. This was, moreover, cheap by French standards, one quarter of the equivalent French article. Dermathistic corsets were advertised as impossible to wear out, with bones, busk and steels protected by leather, and came in a mouth-watering array of colours; cardinal, tabac, gold-ruby, terracotta, apricot, dove and khaki.

Other brands were touted as producing the effects of tight-lacing without its reputed ill-effects (Pingat's ''make the waist small without undue pressure''), and reducing the figure in such a way that tight-lacing became ''unnecessary.'' The Invigorator was not injurious ''even when tight-laced'' (Queen, 5 September. 1885 - these words were often capitalised), and recommended by ten physicians. It was available in all sizes, including boys' and girls' 5-10 years. Those ladies who wanted an ''exceptionally long and small waist'' were summoned to try Giraud's Beauty and Smallwaist Corset for ''ordinary figures,'' in sizes 18-27, and for ''exceptionally small figures,'' retaining a ''full'' cut in hips and bust, in sizes 15-22. The high-class department store Dickens and Jones sold ''Specialité Guinea'' corsets in sizes 17-24. The phrase ''a much smaller size can be worn without injury to the figure'' was singled out by Mrs. Haweis, one of the many dress reformers particularly outraged by this kind of advertising pitch, who gave special lectures attacking it.


Statistic of Waist measurements Waist measurements Waist measurements: Values/Overview
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