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Corsets and Corselettes

Pictures of corsets and corselettes and how they have affected fashion over the past 150 years. Read more >>

Fashion changes - sometimes dramatically, sometimes in increments. One of the biggest changes in fashion has been the use of the corset and corselette. While corsets are sometimes worn today - by both men and women for (usually) medical reasons - the corset historically has been a fashion statement. When teeny tiny waists were in vogue, a corset was de riguer. A corset minimized the waist and therefore, by contrast, maximized the bust and hips. For most people today, the silhouette created by a corset looks odd but in the past, it looked "womanly". A corselette was less restrictive in the waist and hips and included a bra component.

When were corsets worn? Originally quilted waistcoats, French women, as well as men, during the French Revolution adopted the use of a corset. For the women, the waistcoat emphasized their breasts. For men - called Dandies - the male silhouette was slimmed, ostensibly making them look more "fit." By the 1800's, wearing a corset became the height of fashion for women. At first, whalebone was used for the stays (the part of the corset that encased and minimized the body). As time went on, ivory, wood, cane - even steel and plastic - were used. The corset was worn over a chemise (a cotton or linen gown) in order to absorb perspiration, then the corset was tightened by a maid and a gown was put on over the corset. By the end of the 1800's, lighter versions of fashion corsets were also made for use while bicycling, playing tennis, or horseback riding, as well as for maternity wear.

These photos show what (mostly) women looked like once they were done dressing with a corset. What do you think? Do these women look more "womanly" or is the silhouette created by a corset outdated in modern times? << Read less
A photo of an "S Bend" or Flat Fronted Corset taken in 1905.
A photo of Ethel Granger, who had the smallest waist size in recent history measuring in at 36-13-39. She first put on a corset to please her husband, astronomer William Arnold Granger. And then he bought smaller and smaller corsets, asking her to wear them 24 hours a day - she complied. Her beginning waist size was 23 inches. She made the Guinness Book of Records and was the record holder until 1998, when they changed the category to "Woman alive with the smallest waist".
People in this photo:
Ethel Granger
Apr 12, 1905 - around May 1982
Photo of Mrs. Hicks came from the photo album of Louis and Dora Rice Ashworth. "Mrs. Hicks, Mt. Carmel, Illinois" was written on the back of the picture.
A photo of Ethel Margaret Cross
People in this photo:
Ethel Margaret Cross
around July 1882 - Jan 19, 1970
Truro, NS, Canada
A photo of Mary Louise McMullen nee Waters taken on her wedding day October, 6, 1897 to George Karr McMullen Grand Rapids Michigan
People in this photo:
Mary Louise Waters McMullen
1876 - Apr 7, 1956
A photo of Viola Waller (McNutt)
People in this photo:
Viola Hoffman (McNutt) Waller
St Joseph, MO, United States
A photo of Alice Octavia "Ora" Powers Higginbotham
People in this photo:
Alice Octavia "Ora" (Powers) Higginbotham
around Aug 29, 1867 - around Oct 30, 1932
A photo of Lotta Crabtree, renowned actress of the late 19th century.
People in this photo:
Charlotte Mignon "Lotta" Crabtree
Nov 7, 1847 - Sep 25, 1924
This photo was taken around 1899 to document the corset and its impact on the body.
Found in an antique store. Somebody has written a name on this in shaky ballpoint, but I can't quite make it out - "Mr & Mrs Wirley?". The woman appears to be wearing a watch around her neck along with some shiny beads. She also has a hair ornament. Her husband has a pair of lapel pins that look as though they might be for some organization or society. The one on the right appears to have a triangle or Greek letter Delta on it. I can't make out the one on the left.
A photo of Elma (Bowman) Simmons
People in this photo:
Elma (Bowman) Simmons
Sep 8, 1862 - Dec 20, 1943
I've "rescued" an old photograph of Carl and Flora HOFSTEAD and their daughter Hellen which was taken at the Hayes Studio in Portland, OR. The photograph of the couple appears to have been taken in the 1890's with Flora appearing to be in her 20's and Carl in his 30's. The photograph of their daughter has been glued to the front of this photograph and appears to have been taken in the 1890's or early 1900's when she was about 4 years old. A note on the back of the photograph indicates that they are all dead. I believe that Flora's husband Carl died and she remarried Alexander BEATON in Oregon. Based on limited research I was able to gather the following information regarding this couple: Flora was b. 1873 in Kansas and married twice, first to Carl HOFSTEAD and after his death she married Alexander BEATON (1864-1943) and she died in 1939 and is buried in the Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery in Portland, OR. Census records provide the following details: 1900 census of Clark Co., WA: - boarding in the home of Thomas and Juliette STRUNK Flora HALFSTEAD, age 24, born Mar 1875, married 10 years, 1 child/1 living, born NE, parents born MI/IN Helen HALFSTEAD, age 5, born Feb 1895, born OR, parents born NE 1910 census of Abernathy, OR: Alexander BEATON, age 45, married 4 years, born Scotland, parents born Scotland, to USA 1889, a Farmer Flora BEATON, wife, age 37, 2nd marriage 4 years, 1 child/1 living, born NE, parents born USA/IL, a Dressmaker Hellen M. HOFSTAD, step-dau, age 15, born OR, parents born Norway/NE 1920 census of Park Place, OR: Alexander BEATON, age 56 Flora BEATON, age 47 1930 census of Park Place, OR: Alexander BEATON, age 66, married at age 42, born Scotland, parents born Scotland, to USA 1889, a Farmer Flora E. BEATON, wife, age 57, married at age 28, born KS, parents born NE/IN Helen V. BEATON, adopted dau, age 10, born OR, parents born USA/OR I am hoping to locate someone from this family so that the photograph can be returned to the care of family. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
Flora Hofstead
1873 - 1939
So I found a bunch of Photos hidden in an Album, but they are not labeled. Does anyone Recognize this lady? I have 5 photos that were found together of what appears to be the same family. I am not sure how they connect to my family. You can find the back of the photo under Rofina Friemer 1A/1B On the Back it says Rofina or Rofinn Friemer 11 Dec 1824 Photographer: J.Schrimpet Photographisches Atelier Reichenbach in Schlesien They were in my Grandma's Album. I'm hoping someone can help tell me anything about them.
People in this photo:
I’ve “rescued” a group of five old photographs belonging to the MCCARRICK, O’CONNOR, and JOHNSON Families. The five photographs are noted as follows: 1 - Joseph MCCARRICK taken at studio in Armourdale, KS in 1870's or 1880's, about 9 years old at the time 2 - John MCCARRICK taken at studio in Armourdale, KS in 1870's or 1880's, about 8 years old at the time 3 - Nellie MCCARRICK taken at studio in Kansas City, MO in 1870's, about 1-2 years old 4 - Mrs. Anna O'CONNOR JOHNSON taken at a studio in Chicago, IL in 1880's in her 30's or 40's at the time - note photo belongs to Catherine O'CONNOR MCCARRICK of Portland, OR 5 - Katie O'CONNOR MCCARRICK of Kansas City, KS dated 1884, photo taken at studio in San Francisco, CA, in her 20's Based on limited research I was able to gather the following information regarding this family: Joseph MCCARRICK was b. 1874 in Kansas to parents Bernard MCCARRICK (1819-1884) and Susan FORAN (1842-1893). Joseph was one of 8 children born this couple including, Mary Ann; Thomas; Catherine A.; Katy; Susan; John; Joseph; and M. W. MCCARRICK, all born between 1862 and 1877. Joseph died in Buffalo, NY. Katie O’CONNOR married Thomas J. MCCARRICK (b. Jan 1863 in Ireland-d. 29 Oct 1911 in Portland, OR) and together they had three children listed in his obituary as Mrs. J. J. RUSSELL; Catherine MCCARRICK; and Lorretta MCCARRICK. I believe that Thomas and Joseph were brothers. Census records provide the following details: 1880 census of Wyandotte, KS: James MCCARRICK, age 34, a Boiler Maker, born Ireland, parents born Ireland Melissa MCCARRICK, wife, age 27, Keeping House, born IA, parents born CT/KY Nellie MCCARRICK, dau, age 7, born KS James MCCARRICK, son, age 5, born KS Alice MCCARRICK, dau, age 2, born KS Ida MCCARRICK, dau, age 1 month, born KS Mary MCCARRICK, mother, age 68, born Ireland, parents born Ireland Ann MCCARRICK, sister, age 32, blind, born Ireland, parents born Ireland 1900 census of Kansas City, KS: James MCCARRICK, age 54, born Sept 1845, a widow, born Ireland, parents born Ireland, to USA 1863, a Boiler Maker Nellie MCCARRICK, dau, age 27, born Sept 1872, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, a Music Teacher James A. MCCARRICK, son, age 25, born Feb 1875, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, a House Painter Milford MCCARRICK, son, age 17, born Jan 1882, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, a Machinist Bernadotte MCCARRICK, dau, age 14, born Sept 1885, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, at School Edna MCCARRICK, dau, age 12, born Sept 1887, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, at School Leo MCCARRICK, son, age 10, born Jun 1889, born KS, parents born Ireland/IA, at School I am hoping to locate someone from this family so that the photographs could be returned to their care. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
A photo of a woman in a crinoline dress, somewhere between 1860 - 1880.
A photo of an unknown woman - Could be Bezucha, Menchal , Cummings . SUITCASE in the ATTIC Photo Manitowoc woman
A photo of Alice Mary Bromell Revell
People in this photo:
Alice Mary Bromell Revell
1883 - Jul 7, 1955
Brunswick, Australia
I’ve “rescued” three old photographs identified as Marion KOLLEY or Midie or Midie Marion. All were taken in studios in Philadelphia, PA sometime in the 1880’s to 1890’s. One is specifically dated 1894. Two of the photographs refer to her as “Aunt” and one of them includes a “Merry Christmas” greeting as if she gifted the photograph to someone. Marion appears to be in her early teens in the earliest photograph and in per late teens or 20’s by the last photograph. I’m hoping to locate someone from this KOLLEY Family so that the photographs can be returned to the care of family. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
I’ve “rescued” three old photographs identified as Marion KOLLEY or Midie or Midie Marion. All were taken in studios in Philadelphia, PA sometime in the 1880’s to 1890’s. One is specifically dated 1894. Two of the photographs refer to her as “Aunt” and one of them includes a “Merry Christmas” greeting as if she gifted the photograph to someone. Marion appears to be in her early teens in the earliest photograph and in per late teens or 20’s by the last photograph. I’m hoping to locate someone from this KOLLEY Family so that the photographs can be returned to the care of family. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
I’ve “rescued” two old photographs both identified as Lena MICHOLSON or MICHALLSON. Both photographs were taken at the Snyder Bros. Studio in Minneapolis, MN likely in the 1880’s or 1890’s with Lena likely in her 20’s at the time the photographs were taken. Her last name is spelled two different ways on the back of the two photographs so I’m not sure which is correct, or if either are for that matter. I’m hoping to locate someone from her family so that these lovely old photographs can be returned to the care of her family. If you are a member of her family or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
I’ve “rescued” two old photographs both identified as Lena MICHOLSON or MICHALLSON. Both photographs were taken at the Snyder Bros. Studio in Minneapolis, MN likely in the 1880’s or 1890’s with Lena likely in her 20’s at the time the photographs were taken. Her last name is spelled two different ways on the back of the two photographs so I’m not sure which is correct, or if either are for that matter. I’m hoping to locate someone from her family so that these lovely old photographs can be returned to the care of her family. If you are a member of her family or you know someone who might be, please contact me. Thanks, Shelley
People in this photo:
A photo of an unknown woman, taken in RI - Possibly a Daigle or Benoit. Photo Album was owned by Elizabeth Daigle Benoit.
A photo of Sarah Dell (Like) Wilson, wife of Oliver Browning Wilson. Children, Harry Browning, Grant Oliver, Stella Mae, Blanche Felicia, Mary Florence, Glen Thomas, Forrest Harned, Howard William, Jesse Alleyene, Mildred Maxine, and Woodrow Pershing Wilson
People in this photo:
A photo of Clarissa Gurnett (1832-1903), American actress who used the stage names of "Mrs. Clara Walters" and "Jean Clara Walters" was most likely born in Troy, New York to shoemaker John Gurnett (1809-). In 1849 she married Henry Van Warren "Jack" Masten (1828-1859). He died in 1859 from injuries sustained after being run over by a wagon at Fort Defiance, New Mexico. Much to the displeasure of her relatives she turned to the stage as a form of employment and married comedian Charles F. Walters (-1876) in about 1860. She was particularly popular in the provincial theaters of Leavenworth, Kansas and San Francisco, California. Her second husband Mr. Walters was at one time a popular "burnt cork" comedian, though his 1876 Colorado epitaph says that "whiskey became his master". Jean Clara Walters continued to perform with various stock theater and touring companies from 1860 until 1900 when illness put an end to her long career. While appearing earlier in San Francisco, Clara discovered that she had a daughter, Mary Ann Masten (1850-1917) whom she was told had died in childhood. The daughter was now married to Dr. Andrew Fine (1841-1906) and had two sons. Mother and daughter eventually became estranged during Clara's final illness and she was cared for until her death by a friend, Mrs. Missouri T. Shumate (1847-1921). Clara died in Oakland, California 1903 aged 71. additional information: These photographs were taken by the Mathew Brady Studio in about 1860. If anyone has or can find other photographs of "Jean Clara Walters" it may help to provide further evidence regards her identity.
People in this photo:
Clarissa Gurnett
1832 - 1903
Hannah Stilley was born in 1746 and this photograph was taken in 1840. It is most likely the first photographic portrait of a woman.
People in this photo:
Hannah (Stilley) Gorby
1746 - around 1841
A photo of Myrtie Leonard 1882-1964, daughter of H. Luther Leonard and Alice Wescott. Myrtie married Levi James Carter in 1903.
People in this photo:
A photo of Margaret (Truax) Scofield. Margaret was the wife of Winfield Scott SCOFIELD, daughter of John L. TRUAX and Hannah DAVIS.
People in this photo:
A photo of Maggie Willard McGregor. Picture card found at a flea market (Oregon). Written on the back: Maggie Willard McGregor, Iowa . Writing is hard to decipher. not my lines.
People in this photo:
A photo of a dress circa 1900 - 1909 showing the "S curve" profile of corsets in this time.
A photo of an original 1906 tea dress in the Metropolitan Museum
Amy Bolin Fulton 1857-1901.Sullivan Illinois. Could be the 7th great granddaughter to Pocahontas,according to my ancestry.com. I take it with a grain of salt. I am 1% Native American. Could be from my father's side too.
People in this photo:
Amy (Bolin) Fulton
1857 - 1901
This is a photo of Alice Vanderbilt wearing a dress by Charles Worth, designer.
People in this photo:
A photo of Frances and Magdalena Hensler
People in this photo:
Magdalena (Hensler) Braunger
Dec 7, 1871 - Sep 10, 1900
A photo of Magdalina Hensler
People in this photo:
Magdalena (Hensler) Braunger
Dec 7, 1871 - Sep 10, 1900
A photo of Anne Patterson Orgill
People in this photo:
Anne Patterson Orgill
Dnong, Australia
A photo of my Grandmother Louise Gordon Rennie Woody. This photograph was probably taken about the time she got married, in 1909.
People in this photo:
A photo of Martha Elvira Gaston (Jones): Born 1840. Passed away on 18 Mar 1920 in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
People in this photo:
Martha Elvira (Jones) Gaston
1840 - Mar 18, 1920
A photo of Nell and Peggy Meacham. Found picture at antique shop. Not my family line. Names written on front of picture.
People in this photo:
Picture found at antique shop. Written on the back: Nellie Wahlberg. Picture taken in Galesburg, Illinois. Suspect her parents were Nels Otto Wahlberg and Augusta. Suspect her to have been born around 1891 in Illinois but also lived in Texas. Not my family line.
People in this photo:
Wedding photo of Russell Grinnell Sr and Rose Lamb Gifford, Oct 24, 1900, Boston MA This is one of only a few known pictures of Rose Lamb Gifford, daughter of Robert Swain Gifford and Frances Eliot.
People in this photo:
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