'Equipoise' Cotton Twill Waist

'Equipoise' Cotton Twill Waist, c. 1880s, USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

Date: c. 1880s

Origin: USA

Fabric: Cotton twill

Brand: Equipoise


The Equipoise Waist was patented in 1876 by Miss Emmeline W. Philbrook of Boston, MA and shown at the Centennial. As the name suggests, its structure allowed for clothing to be distributed more evenly around the torso and shoulders with its all-around buttons.

During the late 1880s, the Equipoise Waist was advertised as a “perfect substitute for corsets.” Advertisements of the early 1890s echo sentiments of the dress reform movement, claiming that “intelligent” women wore “sensible” Equipoise Waists as a corset substitute, while unnatural corsets that pinched the waist were not “artistic.”

Its less restrictive fit and removable bones also brought physicians to recommend its use as a health corset, especially to be worn during pregnancy. The Equipoise Waist was also described as both “stylish and comfortable.” In a 1898 Ladies’ Home Journal article about traveling with minimal baggage, “1 Black Equipoise Waist” is the only corset mentioned in the suggested list of clothing items.


Many thanks to Summer Lee for the object description and research.

From the collection of Karolina Laskowska

Museum number: KL-2022-066


Adverts keep The Underpinnings Museum running! Please consider visiting our sponsors if you enjoy this website.