This book was absolutely fascinating. I initially didn't think that it would be as interesting as it was, but it didn't take long to get drawn into it. This is one of those marvellous history books that truly makes the subject seem alive. It examines the role the corset played in society, in more ways than I would have originally thought possible. It also has plentiful illustrations and photographs. In fact, one of the chapters thoroughly covers advertising and corsets. It focuses primarily on the corset in Victorian Britain, but it does cover corsetry in America in the 19th century to a lesser degree.
If the 'dress reformer' Ira Warner did not advocate abolishing corsets, that is probably because he is Ira De Ver Warner, one of the two Warner Brothers, of Warner Brothers Corset Co.
Whilst the ventilating corset illustrated could have had more ventilation, such corsets were available, and sold by the likes of David Fanning of Worcester Corset Co. since about 1870. Corsets made of open mesh fabric were also made by brand name firms like Thomson, Langdon & Co.
The corsets from the Leceister Museums collection are not unworn because they were bad, but because these corsets came from Symingtons, a corset firm that bought corsets from other manufacturers, probably for research. Therefore no need to buy old, worn or dirty corsets - it would have delayed analysis and copying if nothing else.
More snide remarks about Ixtle... William Pretty & Sons used this in their corsets as their firm had close relations with Warner Brothers and swapped or traded patented technologies. Ixtle was manufactured into Coraline, and Coraline corsets sold by the million. William Pretty manufactured these too, and Warners sold Pretty's corsets in the US.
Yes, 15 inch corsets were available. So were 54 inch. You may gather by now I found the author's prejudices and poor research rather irritating, sad to say.
This book explores a feminist view on the corset, and is the only book I seem to have found to write about this subject with this slant. It makes comment on the history and realities by many - not every but many - women who wore the corset during the 19th century. It would be an invaluable read to anyone studying fashion, gender studies, women in history and/or are interested in early feminism. The work is written in a very accessible way, and makes points and criticisms of the corset, that seem to have been made out of through research. You may not agree with all of it, but it is definitely a fascinating, interesting and at times shocking read. Especially sections about early abortions, class systems, and the desire of the emancipation of women. Its hard to imagine that this was all happening only a mere 120 years or so ago, but in some respects it makes you look at todays culture, and the restraints imposed onto women today about body image and the ideal figure. It has its faults, but I think as a piece of feminist work about corsets, its brilliant read. (and to comment on the 15 inch corset, most surviving corsets today, have a waist measurement from 17inches up to 29inches and more, and most corsets averaging at 20inches, this book is not implying everyone wore a 15inch corset - its about the fact that this was considered the "ideal" to work towards, in the sense that if you had a 24 inch waist you would be wanting to compress it much as was possible, even though there were many many people arguing against tight lacing. Just like todays size zero, there are many size 10's out there wishing to be a size 8)