Tag Archives: corset

The Hygeia Waist – To Breathe or Not to Breathe

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The Hygeia Waist – To Breathe or Not to Breathe

Photo from Historian Jaan Kolk

Ottawa Historian Jaan Kolk

Just for fun, I looked into 19th century usage of “hygeian.” Taken from the Greek goddess of health and medicine, Hygeia (from which we get “hygiene”) it was used for all things claimed to be healthy in the late 19th century. An 1893 article on the Chicago World’s fair stated that excellent city water was available for free, but “hygeia water” (not capitalized) was available at one cent per glass for those who wanted it.

Most interesting, however, were ads for “hygeia waist” corsets, like this one from Canadian Magazine 1899. One wonders: was the hygeia waist more loose, to allow, say, breathing – or the opposite? That’s a question more in your area of expertise than mine, Linda

“If women will continue this destructive habit of corsets –the race must inevitably deteriorate.”

Both of these pamphlets were published at the end of an era. The advent of elasticized fabric paved the way for the creation of an early bra, displayed by Herminie Cadolle at the Exposition Universelle in 1889.

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1895

 

In the late 1890s the Hygeia Waist Corset came into fashion as women were sick and tired of being not able to breathe. The Hygeia waist corsets were at first only sold by women at home as it seems the stores did not want to change their fashion, but women wanted to be able to work or look after their families. To encourage sales most of these Hygeia waist corsets were sold for a dollar. Maybe that was another reason stores did not carry them at first. Low markup.

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The Butte Miner
Butte, Montana
18 Jul 1905, Tue  •  Page 7

However, the corset’s final death knell was World War I. Women could not work in factories or the field while wearing restrictive clothing. Once household staff went to work for the war effort, upper-class women had no one to help them dress. Girdles and bras took over the corset’s supporting role, after calls for the end of the “destructive habit” of corsetry.

Many of my customers when I had my store Flash Cadilac in Ottawa were niche corset-enthusiasts – a culture that could come under the categories of retro style, body modification, fetishism or cosplay – but the trend for an exaggerated hourglass figure has also turned waist training mainstream.

Waist trainers and more traditional corsets are widespread on social media because they are a perfect fit. Social media reward anything “that is unusual or unique. The thin ideal is so impossible to achieve, and this is another level of that.

That picture on Instagram of somebody with a tiny waist and giant boobs is exotic, almost a fantasy. You get rewarded for this look and even though some might not approve the look it doesn’t matter because it still drums up a reaction– and that is what the world loves now– a reaction.

In the 1800s-1900s corsets were a must- but no one forces me to wear them, I just love them. But-a corset should never be laced so tight that it restricts your breathing! A tinier waist is not more important than breathing but — by god it sucks it in.. 😛

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The San Francisco Call
San Francisco, California
13 Nov 1898, Sun  •  Page 27

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Passaic Daily News
Passaic, New Jersey
21 Oct 1910, Fri  •  Page 2

The Poker Face of Corsets and Waist Training -1800s Fashion Comes Back in Style

Saved by Her Corset

It’s Electrifying! Dr Scott’s Electric Corset

Tales of the Chatteron House Corset — Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place

Death by Corset? Bring Out Your Dead and Other Notions!

“Sex in the Pan” Memories – A RIP Fashion Violation Photo Essay

Saved by Her Corset

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August 15 1884

Yesterday afternoon Mrs.George Kudlyn, wife of George Rudlyn, and her niece, Miss Annie Wilcox, were in an orchard attached to the family residence engaged in picking cherries, when they were derailed by the loud report of a gun close at hand.

Mrs. Kudlyn w as nearly knocked from the stepladder by a sharp blow on her left side. Before she had recovered from her surprise her niece exclaimed : “I am shot!” and the blood gushed from a wound on her left elbow, where it was afterwards seen the shot had entered from a gun fired by George Ellery, who was standing in bis own garden.

He fancied Mrs. Kudlyn’s dress was a pigeon, and blasted away at it over the fence. The ladies hastened into the house, where Mrs. kudlyn found that her life had been spared by her corsets, nearly the whole charge having lodged among the steel  ribs. The charge came with such force as to shatter the skin and leave the impressions of the steel ribss. Doctors were summoned by telegram and arived to the house. They did not succeed in extracting the shot from Miss Wilcox’s elbow, but it is hoped that it will be removed eventually; otherwise a stiff arm will re­sult.

 

Among the anecdotal examples of the corset as undergarment of death and destruction:

  • A 21 year old prostitute who died of syphilis, consumption, and corsets while sitting in a police station.
  • A chambermaid who was found dead after suffering from extreme stomach pains. Upon her death, her stomach was found to be nearly severed in half “leaving a canal only as narrow as a raven’s feather.”
  • Part of the reason was that 19th century medicine held that women’s internal organs needed support. It was said that a woman’s midriff was weak and not up to the job of supporting her womb. Ironically, this was a self-fulfilling prophecy because the constant use of corsets weakened the abdominal muscles.

 

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

 

Related Reading

It’s Electrifying! Dr Scott’s Electric Corset

Death by Corset? Bring Out Your Dead and Other Notions!

Tales of the Chatteron House Corset — Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place

“Sex in the Pan” Memories – A RIP Fashion Violation Photo Essay

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun