February 3, 2018

What's the Difference Between a Corset, a Bustier and a Bandeau?

In the previous article we discussed the difference between a corset and a girdle - important to know when writing about the nineteenth century.  A distinction between these garments and the bustier and the bandeau are important to know, not only for writer's of history, but for contemporary ones as well.

(Wiki Commons Public Domain)

Corsets and bustiers are quite similar.  Both can be either clothing or lingerie (in other words, worn outside as clothing versus inside as an undergarment).  The difference comes in the intent.  The bustier is worn to emphasize the wearer's curves and to create cleavage.  Corsets are intended to produce a smooth line from waist to bust and to reduce, over time, the size of the waist.
Contemporary bustier
(uploaded to Wiki Commons using Flickr upload bot on 27 February 2012, 17:34 by Infrogmation. On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.)

Today, we are familiar with the bandeau as a sleeveless, strapless, strip of cloth worn around the breasts, such as the top of a two-piece swimsuit or bikini.  However, in the 1920"s, a bandeau was worn under the clothing to flatten the breasts in order to achieve the "boyish" silhouette in fashion at the time.  Thus it was the exact opposite of the bustier.

Bandeau of the 1920"s
(Wiki Commons - Public Domain)

References and Additional Reading:


September 15, 2017

Know the Difference Between a Girdle and a Corset When Writing About the Nineteenth Century

Authors of historical fiction know that accuracy is the key to a believable story.  Readers never fail to point out when errors are made, so don't make this one.  If you are writing about women in the nineteenth century, a corset is not synonymous with a girdle.

Historically, a girdle refers to a belt worn outside the clothing as seen in the painting below.
Ancient girdle
From Wiki Commons
The term is still used today in the context for liturgical garments, i.e. the belt a priest or minister wraps around the waist.  It is often woven and has tassels on the end.

Those of us who grew up in the twentieth century know the girdle as an elasticized garment designed to smooth the hips and buttocks and flatten the stomach.  It could be open on the bottom or have legs, have an upward extension that cinches in the waist and prevents "muffin top" or be combined with a built-in bra. These were worn compulsively by women from the 1940's up until the late 1960's.  A typical example is shown on the model below.
Model wearing a girdle.
From Wiki Commons
The girdle has been  largely abandoned by the invention of Spanx and similar foundation garments in use today.

Unlike the girdle of the twentieth century, the corset was extensively used by women to cinch in the waist and support the bust.  It was worn under a dress and usually had stays made of bone, steel or other rigid supports. It was aimed at minimizing the waist, not the hips. Corsets were in use in various forms from the time of Marie Antoinette until the early twentieth century when women rejected them in favor of comfort and the relaxed fashions of the day. Here is a typical example.
From Wiki Commons
So in summary:  For ancient times, use the term girdle to refer to a belt worn outside the clothing
                           For the twentieth century, use the term girdle to refer to an elasticized undergarment
                           For the nineteenth century and before, use the term corset for a rigid undergarment

March 30, 2017

Lilac Breasted Roller Accepted into Spring Show

My painting Patterns of Africa 2:  Lilac Breasted Roller has been accepted into the Minnesota Watercolor Society's Spring Show at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The painting will be on exhibit from April 13 until June 19, 2017.

October 31, 2016

Patterns of Africa in the Minnesota Watercolor Society Fall Show

My newest painting, Patterns of Africa, will be showing at the Lakeville Arts Center, 20965 Holyoke Avenue, Lakeville, Minnesota, from November 5 through November 30, 2016.  Please stop in and see it and all of the other amazing artworks.

August 27, 2016

History of Medicine: Anesthesia During the Civil War

We have all seen images of the hapless Civil War soldier about to undergo amputation of a limb with the benefit of only a few swigs of whiskey to alleviate the pain.  How true is this image?  We know that sulfuric ether was first used for anesthesia in 1846 followed by chloroform a year later.  What then was the role of these early anesthetics at the advent of the Civil War in 1861?

In most cases whiskey continued as the sole anesthetic. It is estimated that both the North and the South used ether and chloroform some 125,000 times during the war despite Northern blockades that limited access to the South.  However, this pales in comparison to the 476,000 wounded and 620,000 dead.

Chloroform was the method of choice. This was because "chloroform is faster-acting, non-explosive, and less likely to cause initial excitement and a flailing of limbs." This statement by Albin suggests there may have been preferential treatment depending on the rank of the patient: "...the science of anesthesiology has come far since those days when a general got a few drops of chloroform and a private was lauded for his spunk."

An offshoot of the use of anesthetics in the Civil War was the introduction of the nurse anesthetist. Catherine Lawrence was the first nurse to administer anesthesia on the battlefield during the second Battle of Bull Run near Washington, D.C.

 References and Additional Reading: