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Impressions of thick book but thin content
on 11 October 2010
I spotted this book months before it was published. Then the description stated it included a chapter on corset making, but sadly this has been dropped from the final draft and the blurb has been amended accordingly.
First impressions were the book was smaller than expected, but nice and chunky. There are lots of colour photos of corsets, including many by modern designers - perhaps too many as few readers will be in a position to afford couture corsets, let alone those designed over a decade ago.
Sadly the written content is not as comprehensive. In the history section, for example, there is too much on underwear such as bustles and not enough on corsets. The second half of the Nineteenth Century - in my opinion the golden age of corsetry with much innovation in product and processes - is skipped over in a paragraph or two. (And confusingly there is an advert for Swanbill corsets from 1879 whilst the text on the facing page talks of "the straight-fronted or 'swan bill' corset fashionable from 1900 to 1910": they are not the same thing.)
Whilst the pictures from modern designers are attributed, the same cannot be said of the French drawings from 1892 (La Vie Parisienne?): nor are the French captions translated. The bibliography is similarly light, omitting for example, Norah's Waugh's classic 'Corsets & Crinlines'.
One myth I'd like to dispel is that 'underwear as outerwear' is a modern concept. "The present corset... should be over the dress, like the Roman belt of old; it is quite as handsome." - Ladies' Column in the Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 19th October 1892. The idea is over a hundred years old; moreover, several period cutting books base their corset drafts on dress bodice blocks.
As another reviewer has mentioned, the text and photos read a bit too much like an advertorial for the authoress, but her claims are undermined by the final two photos, showing buckled back boning and a wavy construction line with the binding twisted in. The beading on the cover photo is not symmetrical either. By the end I am none the wiser what her "unique Uber-Curve method of corset construction and tailoring" is and why it is beneficial. Although I can understand her not giving step-by-step instructions this book is touted as coming from an 'industry insider', and I'd like to know more about her mentor Michael Garrod if not her own work. I hope other modern makers will leave a better written record for future generations.
I'd buy it again though for the final picture of Bex Paul and the wearers' descriptions of how corsets make women feel. At the end of the day it is not a lot of money and I'd like to encourage more books on this subject.