Sometimes having friends who point out things that you might be interested in is fabulous. And sometimes it is…dangerous.
Like when you are just going along, minding your own business, not finding things that you don’t need to buy on Trademe, and then a friend emails you and says “Just saw this auction and thought of you!” And the auction is corset advertising cards from the early 1880s. And you say “thanks, but I really don’t need them”. And you keep saying that. And then somehow (you really can’t explain it, it was like an out of body experience) you end up buying them.
So now I am the proud/slightly ashamed owner of two ‘Downs Self Adjusting Corset’ trading cards from the early 1880s.
The first one features a fashionable (albeit slightly garishly clad) lass and her pug on a quest for a Downs self adjusting corset’:
And the second one features a smug miss who has already achieved the goal (an accomplishment which has inexplicably earned her a pair of over-the-sleeve bracelets and an ermine trimmed robe – because this is 1880s advertising and nothing makes sense).
The backs of the cards are identical, and extol the virtues of the Downs Self-Adjusting Corset: its ‘scientific and sanitary principals’ and the way it combines ‘Beauty of form, COMFORT, HEALTH and DURABILITY’ (because logical capitalization and punctuation is another thing that doesn’t exist in 1880’s advertising). Oooh, and it comes with optional shoulder straps and skirt supports!
I’ve done a bit of research, and while there isn’t much written on the Down’s corset, they did a lot of advertising in the 1880s, touting the corset as ‘The Best, most Healthful and Comfortable corset on the market” which “adapts itself to the various positions that the body assumes in stooping, sitting or reclining” and “gives perfect ease in all positions, affording great relief to the wearer.” The magic construction that allowed this to happen? “Silk elastic gores (covered with fine muslin) above and below a corded waistband.
In looking at the illustration of the corset, the elastic gores are quite visible, as is the shaped straight (rather than spoon) busk, the corded bust, and corded front panel, as well as the lines of boning on either side of the elastic panel. It’s quite a clear illustration, and I think I shall have to give my own version of the Downs’ Self-Adjusting Corset a go!
If you are wondering about the trading cards themselves, they are quite small – 5″ high by 3″ wide, and have some pencil marks on the back.
I wonder how they got from Allen, Michigan to New Zealand? Quite possibly the Trademe bought them on e-Bay recently, marked up the price and put them up for sale on Trademe – it happens.
I’m unlikely to ever own an original 19th century corset, but I’m enjoying adding these to my PD corset box, and building a little collection of corset paraphernalia!