Date: c. 1890s
Fabric: Cotton twill
Brand: R. H. Macy & Co.
This corset is made of a cotton twill exterior, with rose printed motifs and a woven cotton lining. It is bound with a cotton twill tape on the neck and hip lines, with with a ribbon slot lace trim embellishing the neckline, with silk ribbon threaded through. The boning appears to be a mix of flat and narrow spiral steels. The twill waist tape is printed with ‘R.H. Macy & Co Style I’. This text dates the corset as no earlier than 1887/88, when the Straus family entered a general partnership with the Macy family, creating R.H. Macy & Co (now Macy’s Inc).
The guide book ‘A Week in New York’ by Ernst Ingerstoll (1891) states ‘Macy’s, where every sort of thing is sold that a woman would want to buy for herself, for her family or for her house.’ The existence and increased popularity of department stores, such as R.H. Macy & Co, meant that shops no longer had to specialise, allowing for more leisure when shopping. This ushered in the new era of mass production within the garment industry, often at the exploitation of the female factory workers. However, corsets as a garment transcended class and most women would have owned and worn one. Macy’s was famous for its low prices and ‘flash sales’, allowing for corsets to be more economically accessible. Similar corsets can be seen in their catalogue from 1887-88, offering French and German made styles in a range of fabrics.
Many thanks to Peigi Urquhart for the object description and research.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska