Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Romantic Era corsets and the New (but really old) Silhouette

To follow up with my last post on regency stays and silhouettes, I want talk a little about the subsequent era of fashion: the romantic era. Roughly from 1820-1840, the romantic era followed the regency era. This era in fashion saw a lowered waistline, going from the regency era where the waistline was just below the bust, to a few inches above the natural waistline. What, you may ask was responsible for this?

The return of the honest-to-goodness corset. Dun dun dun....

Unlike the short stays of the regency era that were relatively comfortable and bra-esq, the corsets of the romantic era returned to the squeezing function of corsets of the 18th century. Although romantic era corsets were not as heavily boned, the waist cinching idea was still the same.

Regard this example from the Kyoto Museum (1820):

 1820 American corset

The busk is stiff, probably wood or ivory, and the corset receives its shape from cording, or light boning. There is also an attempt at hip gusseting.

Here another example from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1830s):
File:Sleeve plumpers.jpg
Like the other example, the hips flare out, while the waist is cinched above the natural waistline. Unlike the previous example, this corset is laced. Another thing to note about romantic era corsets: the boobs are separated. While regency stays attempted to push the bust upwards by compressing the and pushing  the bust together, these corsets separated the boobies!

This image also demonstrates the return to petticoats during the romantic era. Unlike the regency era where petticoats were largely abandoned in favor of a more natural appearing figure, the romantic era saw a return to puffy skirts, which often meant not just one, but at least two layers of petticoats! These were also corded, and helped make the waist appear smaller. Can you imagine how much all this must have weighed? Women must have gotten their exercise just walking around in this stuff!

Want to see some dresses that demonstrate the results of romantic underwear? Yeah I though so, here ya go:

The Met (1825-1830)

The Met (1832-1835)

Walking ensemble
The Met (1835)

Images and research courtesy of:
The Met

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