Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Any research done in relation to the period of Les Misérables, whether for fanfiction or fanart purposes or otherwise.
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moderntrickster
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Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby moderntrickster » Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:51 am

I'm researching for a plotbunny and found a really good video on male corsetry in the 19th century. I haven't found any other resources for this yet - though I do have some information about medical corsetry in Victorian England - but if there's any interest in it from the board, I'll keep looking and dropping my findings here.
Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. - Henry Miller

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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby Mlle_Alexandrie » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:27 pm

I'd like to hear about medical corsetry, personally-- I've never even heard of it before now. Information on male corsetry would be just as appreciated, though!
"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."

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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby moderntrickster » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:30 am

I imagine medical corsetry has been around as long as corsets, because as soon as people notice the benefits of something, they tend to highlight it. But the earliest resources I've seen for it are Elizabethian. The most common prescription is for spinal irregularities - everything from a "weak back" to scoliosis. For our purposes, though...

Corsets compress the abdominal wall, which takes pressure off the lower back and spine. So medical corsets can be used for posture support, to alleviate back, shoulder, knee, foot, and leg pain; to support the spine and strengthen muscles after accidents or injuries, for support and control of neurological and autoimmune disorders, to prevent back injury, to protect organs during riding or hunting, and so on. This is an article on "How Corsets Heal", which goes into more detail about that and how it works. While it's addressed from a modern standpoint, people in the early 19th century would have no doubt been aware of these benefits as well. Andy Warhol wore a corset throughout the latter half of his life after a assassination attempt left him with a severely injured back.

That article also talks about postpartum "abdominal wrapping" to strengthen the abdominal wall, which can be weakened or damaged during pregnancy. While this has been done in India for centuries, it wasn't a common practice in Europe until the 20th century, but I have no doubt women would have noticed the effects of wearing corsets after pregnancy anyhow. There are pregnancy corsets too, the earliest of which I've seen is a mid-18th century patent.

The Met has a "early 19th century" (which elsewhere I've seen dated as 1810) cotton medical corset here. Something like this would be for an adult male, probably someone with a weak back, problems with posture, or for support. I also have an image of a 18th century leather corset here, another pretty painful looking one from about the same time here, and if you google medical corsets, you'll find some of the wooden and metal ones they used on children from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century in order to correct spinal deformities. I've also found a patent for a male corset to prevent onanism (which is to say, self-touching of the variety that Victorian parents would not approve of), which I'm not including because 1) it's after our time and 2) it weirds me out. XD
Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. - Henry Miller

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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby Mlle_Alexandrie » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:17 pm

Huh. Thanks! That actually makes much more sense than I initially thought. :D
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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby moderntrickster » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:54 pm

No problem! I am a wealth of otherwise useless information, so I'm glad that someone else finds it interesting. ;)

After the French Revolution, when the aristocracy fell out of fashion, the citizen classes started turning away from that kind of frivolous excess. Fashion-conscious men who still wanted to look good in their clothes started using medical issues as an excuse to keep wearing corsets. So from the turn of the 19th century up through the late Victorian era, it wouldn't be uncommon for a man to claim a weak back support, various pains, breathing, and digestion issues in order to keep lacing up.

There was also a utopian philosopher, Count Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, who encouraged men to wear corsets because two men lacing each other up symbolized humanitarianism and encouraged male unity. His philosophy was popular enough, although a bit quacky, during our cast's time.
Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. - Henry Miller

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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby Mlle_Alexandrie » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:02 am

I love pretty much anything to do with late 18th- to early 20th-century fashion, but am hardly an expert, so your otherwise useless knowledge is much appreciated. :D

One question: how did male corsets differ in design from fame ones?
Last edited by Mlle_Alexandrie on Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Male corsetry for the bourgeoise.

Postby moderntrickster » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:16 am

The difference between men's and women's corsets during the 19th century was less about fabrics and more about desired shape. But there were some variants. The classic, fully-boned corset is what's called a "stay", but there was also a lightly boned "jump", that provided less control and support and was worn for informal occasions. Men's corsets resemble jumps more than stays.

Because of the changes in women's fashion - Empire waistlines and flowing Greek influences - the short stay was developed just before the turn of the century, and it resembles the modern bra more than anything (pictures here and here). It didn't shape the waist like full corsets did, but it still provided support and lift. Long corsets wouldn't come back until the Victorian era, and then the S-shaped corset in the Edwardian period.

For men, however, the ideal shape was still a nipped waist and broad shoulders - "the chest of Apollo and the waist of a gnat" according to the Comte d'Orsay. So men wore the same kind of conical (or V-shaped) corset that had been worn before. They came up to about the second or third rib from the bottom, and went down to the natural waist, an inch or so above the navel (waist-cinchers). Some were longer, of course, depending on the stomach control that a man needed, and some men did wear full corsets that came down over the hips and rose up to under the chest. There's an example from the 1890's here, which is a little more constricting than what you'd find in the early 1800's, but it gives you an idea.

Most corsets were made from silk, cotton, or linen with ivory, bone, or wood boning in them depending on the level of expense. Also, men wore their corsets over a sleeveless shift (debardeur), the same way a woman would wear hers over a chemise.
Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. - Henry Miller


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