I’ve started to collect vintage corset training adverts from around the 1900s as they provide a very useful reference for the shape and styling of the original corsets that our modern day corset patterns are based on. I have a nice collection now of ten from 1901 to 1911 and you can see the change in shape over the ten year period. Very useful if your learning how to make corsets to go under period costumes. Also very lovely framed and hung on the sewing room wall.
Which era was that corset made in?
I was never very good at history so it took me a long time to bother to sit down and work out where the Victorian era ended and the Edwardian one began, what came before and what came after etc. The first of the below ads was printed in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died – January 1901 (Before the Victorian era 1837-1901 was the Georgian era). So everything from mid 1901 – 1910 when King Edward VII died (and sometimes extended to the beginning of the war in 1914) is classed as Edwardian. So this first advert could be considered Victorian/Edwardian and the last advert from 1911 is Late Edwardian. After Edward VII came the 1st World War era (we had another George, another Edward and yet another George before Elizabeth II took over so things would have got super confusing if we’d kept going with monarch names!).
Corsetry before the Victorian Era
1790 marked the start of the Georgian era and it’s end is disputed but either 1830 (the death of George IV) or 1837 (the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign). I won’t further elaborate on historical fashion trends here other than to say that prior to the Victorian style or shape the big major difference in corset making style was the Elizabethan bodice, made to squash in the boobs to form a conical shape tapering down to tabs at the waist. This style became popular in the Elizabethan Era 1558-1603. These corsets were often referred to as ‘stays’ or ‘pair of bodies’ (pair on account of there being two halves to a corset). However the corset we still wear today is referred to as having a Victorian shape.
Edwardian Corset Adverts
I think that’s enough of a history lesson! I’ll revisit corset styles throughout history at a later date. It’s always good to have your historical ducks in a row when looking at imagery from the past but on to the good bit, the adverts themselves.
My apologies for not having any that cover the Victorian era itself but this does give us a good picture of the Edwardian era corset. Already in the first two ads from 1901 you can see the S bend corset or straight fronted corset which was a fashion trend that carried through the Edwardian period. You can see more curved seams appearing that wrap around the body diagonally rather than all following the straight up and down path more common in the Victorian era. Toward the end of these adverts the corsets start to extend down the body further as the fashion changed. There’s a gap of 4 years between the last two adverts where the corset pattern style changes dramatically. The corset slips below the bust and extends over the bum at which point they started to become a lot less rigid and a lot more like girdles. This set of ads have definitely peaked my interest in making a straight fronted corset.
Click on each picture for a larger version that you can save for personal reference.