November 18, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Dorset! Cinch Up That Corset

Most of us know that Victorian women wore tightly laced corsets to maintain the fashionable hourglass figure so desirable at the time.  However, what I didn't know until I started reading about this subject was that children, boys and girls, also wore corsets!  Notice in the illustration to the left from 1897, a baby, small girl, teen and a grown woman all wearing a version of a corset.
As soon as children were mobile they were put into so-called "waists".  For boys, the wearing of a waist was dropped after a few years.  But girls progressed through a series of waists to end up with the full blown corset.  As the girl matured, the corset became firmer and more shaped.  The baby's corset consisted of a stiff band of red or gray cloth which was corded for firmness. Mass market corsets ranged in waist sizes from 21 - 28 inches for a four year old to 19 - 28 inches by age twelve. In one catalog, the upper waist size was never more than 28".
By the 1840's and 1850's tightlacing became popular. Corsets became longer to reach several inches below the waist.  As they were cinched tighter and tighter concerns were raised about the negative effects of corsets on a woman's health.  More on that later this week under Medicine in the Nineteenth Century.
For additional reading and references, click the Extras tab.

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