These light brown kid leather gloves, dating from the 1640s, boast embellished cuffs and were a sign of status in the 17th century. They were often presented as gifts at New Year, Valentine’s Day, christenings and marriages. The gauntlets of this pair are embroidered with a pattern of birds and tulips worked in brightly coloured silk threads with a looped fringe of silver thread around the edge. The gloves are said to have belonged to Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), leader of the Parliamentarians during the Civil Wars. Tradition has it that he left them behind, together with a cap and two combs, at Chard in Somerset when he retreated before the advancing army of Charles I (1600-1649) in July 1645.
I don’t often say this, but damn, Worth, that’s business is ugly.
Worth evening dress, 1897
Silk pelisse, Met Museum, c. 1820
“Damenfechten, Wer wagts?” (“Who Dares?”)
E. Cucuel. 1903
Look at that flossing ! Very pretty.
Blue silk corset, V&A, c. 1864
“Historicalfashion” does a very good job of politely yet firmly correcting the common misconceptions of corset wearing (see below). The one pictured here is just one type of maternity corset. Some had expansion laces in the front, too.
Corsets are not intrinsically bad for a person any more than a bra or girdle. In many cases they also supported and protected the body in the same way a back brace does today. Yes, corsets could and did permanently alter a person’s figure (plenty of men wore them, too, by the way), but so do high heels and we’re all still cramming our feet into those, right? In fact, I’d lay odds that high heels do more damage overall than corsets. Girls were wearing training corsets from the time they were about 10-12 and they, like any of us who do something on a daily basis, became accustomed to the feel and their bodies adapted to the shape.
Corsets become a problem when fashion overrules sense and, like today’s crazy fashion trends, function and fit are abandoned in favour of extremes, such as tight-lacing, which was probably far less prevalent among corset-wearers in the 19th century than today’s tight-lace fetishists. That said, when fashion dictates a look, on the whole, we do what we can to achieve it. So the incredibly unnatural wasp-waist became the coveted shape in the late 19th century and today I watch young women stagger up the street and lurch around dance floors in 4-6” high heels that are designed for a striking look, rather than walking.
A dear friend of mind (who’s lately created a tumblr of her own), who is a costume historian and talented seamstress, refers to wearing corsets as “putting on a hug” and I tend to agree. When they are well fitting, they are warm and supporting. Admittedly, I don’t recommend corsets in a heatwave or trying to eat an xmas turducken while wearing one, but are they inherently bad? Heck no.
Royal Worchester Company corset, Met, ca. 1902
This corset was most likely maternity wear, due to its extra adjustability. The corset itself is constructed of four pieces, with extra sets of eyelets and lacing at back, and there are large elastic panels inserted at front. This would allow the wearer to use the corset for a majority of the maternity term, as the corset could easily loosen as the stomach expanded.
YEAH OR JUST NOT WEAR ONE AT ALL BECAUSE YOU’RE FUCKING PREGNANT, YOU DUMBASS.
seriously what the fuck. they made women wear this shit when their bodies were performing their natural functions, like being pregnant?
they’re lucky we don’t have time machines yet because i’d go back there and Feminist-Hulk-out on these fuckers.
Pardon me, but corsets weren’t used during maternity to inhibit the natural functions of the body. Modern people don’t realize that corsets, in their day and age, were used much in the same way that we wear bras and even back braces today - for support. Ever spent a day without a bra? It can hurt, especially if you’re large busted. Yes, some women tight-laced then, but it was about as common in the Victorian age as it is now - meaning it was not common in the least, and certainly not during a woman’s pregnancy. A pregnancy corset was mainly a supportive garment, not a restrictive cage designed to confine a swelling belly and harm the growing child.
Ever seen one of these in modern stores for pregnant women? I introduce you to the function of a maternity corset.
This might be my new favourite historical corset. Isn’t it striking?
Black satin corset, Abiti Antichi, c. 1865
This dress could almost be from the 1950s. It is… words fail me. “Amazing” might be a good start. “Adorable” is probably closer to the mark. “Surprising” to say the least.
Girl’s party dress, MFA Boston, 1865
I looked it up ! It’s for real. In fact there are four other items in the National Trust’s online database that are titled “Ugly.” Usually we museum professionals reserve that kind of editorialising for the ‘cataloguer’s remarks’ field.
LOL what a title!
- Date: 1887–91
- Culture: American
- Medium: silk, beads, metal