20th Century

C1941/42 AVRO LACED BACK CORSET WITH BELT (UTILITY) PART 1

Summary: Avro laced back corset with belt

Maker: Avro

Model: UB902F Utility 1941/1942

Place of Origin: Britain C1941/42

Materials and Techniques: Cotton Coutil, rayon elastic inserts, metal eyelets, steel

Outer: Two part corset comprising of 5 panels either side in a single layer of coutil. It has a split front busk and lacing at the centre back supported each side with two bones of flat steel. The centre front and centre back panels are faced. Seams are backed with single casings of herringbone weave tape encasing the boning. The top and lower edges are bound in a ribbon tape.

Inner: The corset features A deep underbelt with wide elastic panels attached into the side seams of the outer corset. It features a hook and eye fastening at the front that sits directly beneath the busk.

The underbelt is constructed with a double layer of coutil which sandwiches the woven elastic panels. The additional underbelt in the garment would have been constricting, providing firm support to the abdomen and flattening the stomach.

The corset features 2 sets of 28mm suspender joining the outer and inner corsets with metal suspenders and adjusters.

21.5cm Busk

19 sets of eyelets spaced 2cm apart

Construction:

The corset is machine stitched  (13 stitches per Inch). The panels are joined together using the felled seam method encasing all the raw edge and pushing the seam toward the back. The seams have a double row of stitching. 18mm bone casings are applied to the inside of the garment. The front two bone channels do not follow the panel shape stitched down vertically instead.
The corset is boned using flat steels either side of the eyelets at the centre back and wide 9/10mm spiral steels in the bone casings. The spiral steels do not finish the entire length of the bone channel providing some ease of movement for the wearer

Dimensions

Cf depth: 34.5CM CB depth 37cm

Waist circumference 26″: Hip: 35″

Label:

UR170G, Avro Corsetry- UB902F, Laced back corset with belt, Specification 9033, Type 3, Size assortments, 26 x 32, 33 x 36

UTILITY CLOTHING

The Utility scheme was introduced toward the end of 1941 in response to the shortage of raw materials and labour for the war effort. Utility clothing was marked with the CC41 ‘controlled commodity’ mark. The mark meant the item met the governments austerity regulations and assured customers that the clothes were reasonably priced and of good quality.

The board of trade sponsored the creation of several ranges of utility clothing which were subject to austerity regulations. They restricted the amount of cloth, type of decoration and also the amount of time for manufacture. (Limitation of supplies cloth and apparel order 1941).

These restrictions also applied to the manufacture of corsetry. Steel that would have been used for corsets was used in favour for munitions. As men went to war women replaced mens roles in the the factories and the demand for practical clothing grew.

With regulations in place and CC41 marked clothing became popular skirts hems rose. Waists were nipped in conserving fabric for the war effort. Slacks were also worn made popular by the film star Katharine Hepburn. Silk and wool were highly uncommon. Silk was used for parachutes and wool for soldiers blankets. Cotton was also rationed though not so heavily. Rayon became the number one choice of fabric for the 40’s as it was readily available and relatively inexpensive.

To further economise, the Making of Civilian Clothing (restriction orders) was passed in 1942. This forbade wasteful cutting of clothes and set list of restrictions that Tailors and dressmakers had to work to. For example, dresses could have no more than 2 pockets, 5 buttons, 6 seams in a skirt, 2 inverted or box pleats or 4 knife pleats and no more than 4 metres of stitching. No unnecessary decoration was allowed.

The term ‘Utility’ became synonymous with austerity shortages and rationing.

1913 STRAIGHT FRONT CORSET: SYMINGTON CORSET COLLECTION: COLLECTION RESOURCES CENTRE (BARROW-ON-SOAR, UK)

Museum Reference

D1

Summary

Dated: 1913

This corset is constructed in two parts made from white open weave cotton and printed with blue mock chain stitch circles. The cotton net was lightweight and breathable allowing air to pass through the holes and kept the skin cool when worn making the corset suitable for summer wear.

This long line style corset is cut under the bust line and finishes over  the thigh with a  dipped hem at the back to sit over the buttocks. The actual waist line was lifted higher than the natural waist so that extreme restriction could not be achieved. Corsets from 1910 featured a straight front but their function was not to compress the waist. The S- bend corset was cut low freeing and no longer supporting the breast. It pushed the stomach and pelvis in, hips and buttocks back and the shoulder and bosom forward creating the pouter-pigeon mono-bosom that was popular with Edwardian fashion.

The corset fastens at the front with a 10″ flat narrow split busk that does not run the full length of the garment. The bottom is left open at the front. The corset is firmly boned with flat steel double bones encased in channels at each seam. Even though the cut of the corset is long the bones only finish part way down the channels to allow some ease of movement to the lower half of the body though still providing support and control. The corset features 4 x plain adjustable suspender.

Trimming is minimal on corsets of this period, most only having lace around the top edge. This corset is finished with a layer cut from the cotton net applied to the upper edge and is  bound at the lower edge with twill tape.

Dimensions

Waist circumference: 24″

Side Depth: 18″

UNDRESSED EXHIBITION: A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERWEAR: V&A MUSEUM: LONDON, UK 

COTTON COUTIL CORSET 

Record Number: V&A: T.90δA- 1984 – Given by the family of Mayer Yanovsky

Summary: 

Dated: C.1890

The corset is made of two parts from a single layer of light brown cotton coutil with single external bone casings in contrasting dark brown coutil. The corset is reinforced by an extra panel of the dark brown coutil that wraps around the waist designed to reduce the risk of the whalebone breaking.

The front panels feature sections of horizontal cording around the bust providing support and strength to the corset. The corset is finished with flossing- a decorative embroidery technique used to hold the bones preventing them from working their way out of  the casings.

The corset is bound by a twill weave tape at decorated around the upper edge with machine made cotton lace.

S-Bend corset (From the Hopkins Collection)

Summary: 

Dated: C.1902-1909 (probably British)

Corset made from cotton, silk, whalebone (baleen), metal busk  and machine made lace trimmed with replacement ribbon

The S bend corset was cut low freeing the breasts but pushed the stomach and pelvis in, hips and buttocks back and shoulders and bossom forward.

WHITE COTTON CORSET WITH TRAPUNTO WORK

Record Number: V&A: T.57-1945

Summary: 

Dated: C.1825-35 (Britain)

Constructed from corded and quilted  cotton, silk thread and whalebone. The corset features both bust and hip gussets. 

Trapunto derived from the Italian “to quilt” is a method of quilting that utilises two layers of fabric, the underside of which is slit and padded to produce a raised surface.

The corset features a wide concealed busk to the centre front which seperates the breasts and helps flatten the stomach.

WHITE RIBBON CORSET

Record Number: V&A: T.18-1958

Summary: 

Dated: C.1900 (possibly British)

With the reinvention of the ancient Olympic games in 1896, women began taking part in various physical activities and games including tennis, cycling, skiing and skating. Although corsets were still an integral part of women’s clothing, styles were being manufactured lighter and less structured.

The upper edge of this corset finishes under the breast. The ventilated style corsets were becoming more popular for the sporting woman allowing freedom of movement and healthy respiration for the wearer.

The sides are boned providing support and allowing for some waist constriction.

COTTON NET CORSET

Record Number: V&A: T.92&A-1984

Summary: 

Dated: C.1900 (BRITAIN /GERMANY)

Made in two parts which which fasten together at the front with a straight metal busk, This corset is made of cotton net allowing air to pass through the garment which helped keep the skin cool during summertime. The corset is reinforced with a white cotton diamond shaped waist band and single external bone casings that sit over the top.

The corset reaches from just over the bust to the curve of the hips slanting down to a point at the front.

GERMAN ERSATZ (AUSTERITY) CORSET

Record Number: V&A: T.44-2015

Summary: 

Dated: C.1917-1918 (GERMANY OR AUSTRIA)

Made from canvas weave paper twine, this corset is an example of the ersatz (substitute) clothing produced in Germany or Austria in response to the severe textile shortages during the First World War.  ‘Maintaining a supply of underwear was important to civilian moral. corsets were particularly important. without them most women felt undressed’

The corset features metal boning finishing part way down within the channels to allow for freedom of movement around the hip. The corset is trimmed with woven silk and linen ribbon.

GIRDLE LITTLE X: SILHOUETTE [SALOP] LTD

Record Number: V&A: T.291-1993

Summary: 

Dated: Early 1960’s (BRITAIN)

LYCRA, Nylon, lurex trim with metal suspender clips

Designed by Anne- Marie Lobbenberg for Silhouette in 1958 proved very popular with young women. The all elastic girdle provided light control and two way stretch

Advertisements focused on its functionality and the freedom of movement it allowed, promising that it ‘wont wrinkle, roll over or ride up’

The corset incorporates Lycra the brand name for elastane [spandex] a synthetic stretch fibre produced from polyurethane in 1959.

BUST EXTENDER: SPIRELLA CORSET COMPANY

Record Number: V&A T.348-1996

Summary:

Dated: 1910-1914

“The Spirella corset company marketed this style in its 1913 mail-order catalogue as a ‘bust extender… for the person who is too thin or scant in chest development”

The bust extender is constructed from a cotton covered frame of spiral steel boning designed to emphasise the ‘monobosom’ that was fashionable at the time. ‘The monobosom was the result of the S-bend corset that left breasts unsupported, and was exaggerated to create an unnatural ‘pouter pigeon’ chest that puffed out over the comparatively tiny waistline’.

The bust extender would have been worn over the top of the corset and inside the bodice of the dress

Trimmed around the neckline and arm holes with a cotton lace trim.

CORSET WITH SHOULDER STRAPS (UNKNOWN)

References
Ehrman, E (2015) Undressed. V&A Publishing. London