'Droit Devant Forme Nouvelle' Drab Coutil Corset With Flossing Embroidery, c, 1900-5, France. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

#UPMTC: Women and Corsets in Toronto, by Alanna McKnight

This blog post covers the Underpinnings Museum Twitter conference presentation from Alanna McKnight entitled Women and Corsets in Toronto, 1870-1914.

This study argues that corsets were a site of feminist agency, using Toronto’s consumer and manufacturing centres as a case study. Toronto’s corset manufactures were instrumental in the urbanization of Canadian industry, and created employment in which women earned a wage. The women who bought their wares were consumers making informed purchases, enacting agency in consumption and aesthetics; by choosing the style or size of a corset, female consumers were able to control to varying degrees, the shape of their bodies. Using archival and material culture analyses, the female economy of Toronto’s corset industry is uncovered.

Alanna McKnight is a PhD Candidate in Communications and Culture at Ryerson University in Toronto, specializing in women’s labour and history in Canadian fashion, due to complete in January 2018. Her doctoral dissertation is informed by undergraduate degrees in theatre costuming and History, as well as a masters in history, with a thesis on Toronto dressmaking. She has been an avid maker and wearer of corsets for 18 years.

We will share each of the conference presentations via its own blog post over the coming weeks. If you’re on Twitter, you can join the discussion via the Underpinnings Museum’s account and the conference hashtag #UPMTC

The header image for this post is of a ‘Droit Devant Forme Nouvelle’ drab coutil corset with flossing embroidery (c, 1900-5, France) from the Underpinnings Museum collections. Photography by Tigz Rice.