A corset might have been a delightful garment in medieval France. The word came from the diminutive of “cors” meaning “body” and it meant a lace bodice. But by about 1800 a corset referred to a stiff, restricting undergarment.  Miriam Josefsohn in Blue Thread, was thankful that she wasn’t wearing one during her travel back to the steppes of biblical Moab.

Corsets…I don’t know how Mama can stand them.

Here’s an ad for a corset from the Morning Oregonian, February 18, 1912. The corset featured here boasts of steel rods that never rust. Ouch!

By 1908, corsets reached to well below the hips, making it difficult to sit down. Coutille (similar to denim) was used for the less expensive corsets, but one could buy a corset made from brocade, ribbon, and lace for an extravagant $50. Corsets began to “loosen up” during World War I (1914-1918), when women took jobs in business and industry to replace men who had left for military service. Thankfully with the advent of elasticized materials, most corsets have never been the same since.


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