Here we go with my first real post in “corset pictures”. Please add your comments and opinions, I’m hoping to see how other people interpret corset images and their reactions to them.
These photos are all late 19 century or early 20 century. They are, I assume, real photos of real people…..not people dressing up, or modelling historical costume.
A few images to start the debate…..
…and 2 more
Lets number the photos, going clockwise from top left
- Straight front corset professional model.
- Aristocratic lady.
- Mother and daughter….1870s?
- Telephone exchange operators.
First of all, all 4 photos will have been carefully posed…there weren’t any “quick snaps” in those days. Therefore we can assume that the people photographed took care to look as they wanted to be photographed.
Photo no 1…..1900 straight front corset, a very good and carefully taken image? Quite a small waist, but not really wasp waisted as she would have been 20 years before. Note how she gets the Gibson girl posture by putting her arms above her head and also BEHIND her. This enlarges the bust line, pulls the shoulders back and tilts the spine forward. I think the hair brush is just an excuse for the artificial pose (and perhaps to gvie a hint of respectability).
Photo no 2 Aristocratic lady around 1880? Really quite an exaggerated wasp waist. Her ribs also taper in a straight line from her shoulders to her waist – what was called a “refined figure”. Probably the result of wearing a tight corset from quite young (how young….aha, a later post to come)
Photo No 3 Like lady no 2 the standing lady here has quite a tapering bodice and a very small waist.
Photo no 4 Working girls, but all heavily corseted, you can see the ledge across the top of the back. You can also see how the corset keeps the body straight and the arms, not the body, reach forward.
Interpretation. It’s likely all four subjects regarded their corset as we regard our bras today…..we would not be seen dead without it! These photographs help confirm that corsets were always worn and that a waist was not only fashionable but also added respectability and morality (rather like our bras today?)
Here are some questions for a light discussion
1. Could you achieve the wasp waist shown in these photos over 100 years old? Yes, you have to wear a tight corset, but there are limits to what we will put up with? These ladies thought it “natural” to wear a tight corset all day everyday?
My comment…I’ve worn this style of corset on stage and for reenactment. At first a tight corset is IMPOSSIBLE, but you do get used to it? I found that I had to judge it not by today’s standards, but by the principles of life at the time?
2. Would you want to be seen out today with a waist like that? (except of course, for reenacting, theater etc). What would your friends say…would they say “weird”, “deformed”, “uncomfortable”? Just think that if someone in 2117 (100 years on) saw a photograph of you today. If you are wearing 2017 clothing….. underwire lift bra, high heels and makeup they might say the same things!
My comment…Well…no, I wouldn’t want to go the supermarket with a waist like that, but perhaps for special occasions I might……
Well, that’s my first post, please add your comment….I’d love to hear your opinions. If you can’t see the comments box click on “Interpreting a wasp waist v2”
Update…I can’t get the comments box to show, so please email me at
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