This corset’s silhouette is typical of ‘Titanic era’ fashion, with a smooth flowing line and long line. It was likely intended to be part of a wedding trousseau, or as occasion wear, as it is very lightly constructed. The main body is cut from a single layer of silk, with cotton facings on the front busk closure and back eyelet panel. Bone channels and the hem facings are cut from a tightly woven cotton ribbon.
The corset is very lightly structured, with flat steel bones encasing the centre back eyelets, 2 wide flat steel bones on each side towards the side back of the garment (which each have a gentle curve, which was either pre-formed or caused through wear), and a single light piece of baleen towards the front. The bones do not extend through the entire vertical length of the corset, and the ends are encased in the channels with either a hand sewn running stitch or flossing motif. An interrupted cotton waist tape is sewn only into the back half of the garment, as this was likely where the most strain was exerted during wear.
The corset fastens with a flat busk with 5 loops and pins, with an additional sewn in hook and eye directly below. The interior of the busk was originally lined with a strip of velvet ribbon, though the majority of its pile has worn away through wear. The back of the garment fastens with lacing through 1 part eyelets that were likely originally gold toned, but have tarnished to black. The original lacing of this corset has been lost and was replaced with contemporary cotton lacing for these photos.
The corset has 2 suspender straps per side, constructed from elastic encased in silk ribbon. Each grip is embellished with a silk ribbon rosette. The suspender grips are stamped with ‘velvet grip’ and ‘Pat. 21.249-94′, likely dating it to 1894. The rosette motif is repeated at the top centre front of the garment. The top line of the garment is also decorated with a strip of ruffled silk ribbon and cream silk leavers lace. The number ’52’ is stamped to the inside of the garment, which is potentially a style number, or potentially the garment size in centimetres. However, the waist in fact measures around 61cm rather than 52cm, though it is possible for the garment to have stretched through time and wear.
The interior of the garment has two woven labels, one stating ‘Corset Marque Lafayette’ and the other ‘Espécé’. This corset may have originally been sold in what would become the French department store Galaries Lafayette, which was initially founded in the late 19th century.
From the collection of The Underpinnings Museum