|Image from Bazaar magazine, 1951|
While I plan to start out with a traditional Victorian-style overbust corset, these examples of mid-century corsetry have gotten me all excited about the possibilities! As far as I can tell, corsets of the 1950s fall into the following four categories:
1. New Look Waspies
If you've been reading this site for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of Dior's New Look (blogged here), which was introduced in 1947, and had its heyday in the 50s. The hourglass silhouette was striking: sloped shoulders, full skirts, and a teeny tiny waist. The waist was cinched with the aid of a "waspie:" a narrow underbust corset. The V&A has a couple in its collection, including this one from 1948:
A Short History of the Corset" this week, coinciding happily with my corset research. The author includes this 1950s undergarment, writing,
The advent of new highly tensile nylon elastic nets in the 1950s brought about a revolution in underwear design and manufacture, offering powerful control without the need for much boning. It allowed underwear designers to use a lace effect not only as a decorative trim, but as the garment's primary material. This is a version of the "merry widow" corset, named for the 1952 film of the same name starring Lana Turner. The 'Merry Widow' name was registered by Warner's, which timed the launch of the range with that of the film and extensively advertised the brand from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.Vintage merry widows are quite beautiful to look at, but I wouldn't have previously thought of them as examples of corsetry since they don't lace up at all. Any thoughts on this, readers?
3. Girdle-Corset Hybrids
With the advent of these synthetic fabrics, girdles became the norm. But I have come across some interesting garments that appear to be mash-ups of girdles and corsets. Made of more modern power net, these foundation garments do have lacing up the back, hearkening back to corsets of yore. (They're actually still sold here, but beware: the pics are quite fetish-y.)
|From the Corsetry Museum site|
Corsets have been a fetish item for a long time! Pin-up girls and burlesque performers of the 1950s sometimes wore very traditional Victorian-style corsets. These glam get-ups were even featured in special corset-fetish girly magazines.
So that's my recent dorky foray into fashion history. I know we have a lot of corset experts in the sewing world, and I'd love to hear from you! Are my assessments correct? Does a true corset need to have laces, or would you consider a merry widow to be a corset? Also, there seems to be a return to wearing corsets as everyday undergarments. Anyone in this camp?
Also, please share any recommended reading on the subject! I'm just dipping into The Basics of Corset Building, but I can tell I'm going to be looking for some more in-depth books soon.