1900s Combination Corset Bloomers: It has little shell buttons all the way down the back. soft sheer white
cotton with the finest Valenciennes lace details all over front &
back. There’s a small name embroidered on the front side it says
“Helene”, There are little delicate ribbon “belt loops” inside the front
lace near bust for a silk ribbon that will tie it in tighter for
shape.This has that wonderful antique Gibson Girl style/shape commonly
called a pigeon front, for the way it billows out full in front.
This is a woven silk corset from the 1890s, and it was stiffened with strips of whalebone. It was made in Brussels, and probably worn in the evening. At the waist, it measures 21.5 inches or 54cm, but it could be let out. Medical writers criticised tight lacing, but throughout Victorian times wearing corsets was the norm for women of all classes.
One of my favorite corset myths is that Victorian women regularly had their lower ribs removed. I won’t go into how incredibly absurd this idea is, but instead will talk about where the myth may have begun.
Corsets need to be supported by vertical stays, which eventually were called ‘bones,’ because many were made with whalebone, a misnomer for baleen.In fact, boning is simply called “baleine” in France, even today’s steel boning.
While baleen molded to curves well with steam, it was also quite brittle, therefore the “bones” broke easily and needed to be removed and replaced.
I believe that it is these bones that women removed and in the game of “historical telephone” it became “rib bones.”
PSA: The Duchess War (ebook) by Courtney Milan is free now [on Amazon]. This is the first book in her “Brothers Sinister” series, which is my go-to rec for people who have a) never read a Romance novel and are open to challenging any negative preconceptions they may have about the genre, or b) have just never read these books.
The Duchess War stars
a chess-prodigy heroine who was raised by a couple of penniless but
loving “maiden aunts” who took her in after her father was convicted for
entering her (as a boy) into chess competitions for profit & a duke with
sekrit plans to smash the patriarchy hereditary aristocracy.
Other stories in the series feature:
A pregnant former governess with lavender-farming ambitions who camps out rain or shine outside the home of the aristocrat who raped her demanding that he pay up & the villain’s man of business, a former pugilist with ruthless ambition but an admiration for intractable women.
A grumpy doctor hero who thinks that men who lie to women about their own bodies belong in a lower rung of hell & pines for the beautiful, resilient young woman he failed to save from the medical malpractice of a slut-shaming misogynist when he was a medical student.
The socialist duke’s ginger-haired bastard half-brother with political
ambitions & the loud-mouthed, gauchely-dressed heiress who saves him from
selling his soul while also protecting her chronically ill sister from medical abuse & false imprisonment
by their Uncle. Meanwhile, the sister falls in love with an expatriat Indian lawyer & saves herself.
A sharp-tongued lady scientist/her slutty-pants childhood BFF who pines
for her like the woodsiest of pine trees but refuses to publish her work
under his name ANYMORE. There is also knitting in this book, and a lot of women protecting other women. Plus, SCIENCE.
An outspoken newspaper editor/journalist & Women’s Rights advocate and the Lost Heir whose horrible brother is trying to terrorize her
out of business partly for ideological reasons, but mostly because she
refused his advances; a secondary f/f romance featuring
the heroine’s best friend & the “Straight Girl” who is Too Smart
& Pretty for her to talk to without blushing & stammering, omg.
A shy Black math prodigy heroine who works as a “calculator” for astronomers & a scandalously funny, rakish Irish writer who pens the satirical “Ask a Man” column for a Feminist newspaper.
tl;dr This Victorian-set series abounds with explicit feminism & other social issues; more PoC, queer, and non-upper class characters than typically found in mainstream historical romance (i.e. any); lots of politics & science!